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Senate Proceeds To Debate On FISA Renewal Bill

Argentine Senate debates Milei's necessity and urgency decree, in Buenos Aires

The Senate voted to proceed to debate on a bill to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on Thursday, setting the stage for a crucial decision before the current version expires on Friday.

A cloture motion to initiate voting on the bill passed with a 67-32 vote, with senators from both parties expressing both support and opposition. By surpassing the 60-vote threshold, the chamber successfully avoided a potential filibuster.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating, 'We obviously don’t have a lot of time left before FISA authorities expire. In fact, less than two days.' Both Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have thrown their weight behind the renewal.

McConnell cautioned against amendments that would require warrants, citing concerns about impeding the FBI's ability to safeguard the nation. He urged his colleagues to reject such proposals, invoking the memory of 9/11 to underscore the importance of maintaining FISA's current framework.

However, some prominent senators, including Mike Lee and Rand Paul, have voiced opposition to the bill. Lee criticized the absence of warrant provisions, citing past FISA abuses and advocating for stronger protections of Fourth Amendment rights.

Paul raised concerns about potential surveillance of Americans under FISA, drawing parallels to past controversies involving President Trump. On the other side, Senator Jon Tester expressed reservations about renewing FISA in its current form, calling for measures to prevent warrantless government searches.

Senator Ron Wyden warned that the bill would significantly expand government powers under FISA, potentially compelling individuals to assist in surveillance activities. Despite these objections, a bipartisan coalition stressed the critical importance of renewing FISA in the current security environment.

Senator Lindsey Graham emphasized the severe consequences of halting FISA operations, labeling it as a major national security misstep. FBI Director Christopher Wray also urged Congress to reauthorize the security tool, cautioning that failure to do so could jeopardize American lives.

While many advocate for swift renewal, some senators are pushing for amendments to the legislation, casting uncertainty on whether the bill will pass before the impending deadline.

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