Authorization for the NSA's bulk data collection program is set to run out Sunday
Lawmakers are set to return from Memorial Day recess hours before the program hours before the deadline
Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday backed up President Barack Obama’s calls for the Senate to reach a deal to reform and extend Patriot Act provisions set to expire on Monday.
Lynch warned that inaction from the Senate would cause “a serious lapse” in the government’s ability to protect Americans.
A day earlier, Obama urged Congress “to work through this recess and identify a way to get this done.”
“This needs to get done,” he said during an Oval Office meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The National Security Agency’s bulk metadata collection program, which has allowed the NSA to collect and store phone data on millions of Americans, will sunset on Monday unless Congress passes legislation by midnight on Sunday.
Obama and Lynch have endorsed the USA Freedom Act, the bill to make changes to the Patriot Act that overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives but came three votes shy of passage in the Senate this weekend. Obama said Tuesday that bill “strikes an appropriate balance; our intelligence communities are confident that they can work with the authorities that are provided in that act.”
Under that plan, phone companies would store their customers’ metadata and the NSA would need to obtain a specific, targeted warrant to get a customer’s data.
His comments came after the Senate failed in a rare overnight session this weekend to pass the USA Freedom Act or a short-term extension of the Patriot Act’s expiring provisions as reform opponents and the staunchest anti-surveillance advocates stood firm on their positions.
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The Senate now stands in recess until next Sunday, though Senate dealmakers are working this week to find a way to keep the programs from lapsing.
Obama pressed the Senate to work through the recess to find “a way to get this done.”
“The House of Representatives did its work,” Obama said. “The Senate did not act.”