02:58 - Source: CNN
Obama: 'Heaven forbid' Senate inaction allows attack
Washington CNN —  

Speaking two days before major provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire, President Barack Obama on Friday warned that without the data collection and surveillance programs, a terrorist could slip past U.S. intelligence.

“I don’t want us to be in a situation in which, for a certain period of time, those authorities go away, and suddenly we’re dark,” Obama said at the conclusion of meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“Heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who is engaged in dangerous activity, but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate,” Obama said in the Oval Office.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about the Patriot Act debate

Obama and his administration have been pressing Congress to resolve a dispute over the surveillance provisions, saying the programs are essential to protecting Americans’ national security. Opponents, led by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, argue some of the programs are an illegal invasion into citizens’ privacy and question their effectiveness.

Unless lawmakers can come to an agreement by midnight Sunday, the National Security Agency must wind down its bulk phone data collection program, as well as a measure that allows for surveillance of “lone wolf” terrorists and a program that gives the government the ability to track burner phones.

The House-passed USA Freedom Act, supported by Democrats and Republicans, would have made changes in the bulk collection program and rolled back some government authority. But the Senate wasn’t able to take it up, or even short-term extensions of the current law, after some lawmakers, led by Paul, blocked the measures from coming to the floor.

“This is a debate about whether a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all of the phone records of all the people in our country with a single warrant,” Paul said in the Senate last Friday. He’s kept up his criticism on the campaign trail, where he is running for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

“It’s one of the most cherished rights, to be left alone,” he said Thursday in Iowa. “What they’re doing now, I think, is unconstitutional and illegal.”

Obama on Friday urged the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which would need to be approved by 8 p.m. ET on Sunday in order for law enforcement agencies to keep the surveillance programs running without any lapses. Other bills would be subject to approval by the House, which won’t convene in time for the programs to continue without interruption.

“This is not an issue in which we have to choose between security and civil liberties,” Obama said. “This is an issue in which we, in fact, have struck the right balance.”

Backers of the USA Freedom Act currently require three senators to join them in order for passage of the bill. A spokesman for McConnell said Friday the Senate would pass some NSA bill on Sunday, but it’s unclear what that legislation will be.