The House Judiciary Committee will take up legislation on expiring Patriot Act provisions after May 11, leaving Congress only days to pass a bill renewing the powers.
Before acting on legislation, the panel on May 11 will hold a third hearing on the three Patriot Act authorities that are set to expire May 27, a committee aide told Main Justice. But the committee and the full House will have little time to act. Between May 11 and May 27, the House currently has only seven days set aside for floor votes and is not slated to hold votes on May 27.
The Judiciary Committee has not considered a bill yet and while the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a measure, it has not gone to the floor.
The Obama administration and panel Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) have expressed support for extending all the expiring powers. The authorities include the “lone wolf” power, which allows investigations of suspected terrorists not tied to a specific organization or nation, along with powers that authorize “roving wiretaps” and make it easier for federal authorities to get tangible evidence — such as library records — as part of a probe.
The Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) approved legislation that would extend the sunsetting authorities and phase out national security letters, which are administrative subpoenas that the FBI uses to get evidence without a court order.
But the bill garnered the support of only one panel Republican, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. The seven Republicans who voted against the bill expressed concern that the legislation would make it more difficult for law enforcement authorities to use the Patriot Act powers.
The Senate, which is set to be in session until May 27, has yet to schedule a floor vote on the bill.
The three Patriot Act powers are currently allowed under a 90-day extension that Congress passed in February.
The House tried to pass a Patriot Act renewal bill in February that would have extended the authorities until December. That measure was considered under House procedures that required a two-thirds majority to pass the bill. But House Democrats and conservative Republicans joined together and the bill was not passed.