Messy intel fight comes to Senate with Friday deadline

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The Senate will take its first vote on keeping a key surveillance power in place Thursday, setting up a tough negotiation with privacy hawks in order to avoid a Saturday lapse in the controversial spy authorities.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday he will move to set up a vote on the expiring Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for later this week, hoping to avoid a brief shutdown for the intelligence community program to collect information from foreign targets without a warrant.

“Democrats and Republicans have to work together to meet the April 19 deadline. If we don’t cooperate, FISA will expire. So we must be ready to cooperate,” Schumer said Tuesday morning.

The two-year FISA bill will need 60 votes to vault the first filibuster, and then Schumer and GOP leaders must work with senators like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah to set up votes on amendments and debate time.

Some Democrats and Republicans alike want a vote on installing a warrant requirement for searching the program’s database for intelligence swept up on U.S. citizens. Paul says he also wants votes on amendments that would prohibit FISA from being used on Americans altogether, as well as bar the purchase of intelligence data without a warrant.

“We’re trying to make sure there’s a debate over whether or not Americans should be spied on by their own government,” Paul said Monday night. “We need more protections of Americans.”

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