Washington (CNN)The Senate has enough votes to continue a controversial national security effort that sweeps up Americans' phone records — with some major changes — as a Sunday night deadline approaches, Sen. Mike Lee says.
Lee: NSA compromise measure can pass
But it's not clear whether that vote will happen before the program expires at midnight, or if opponents like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will delay it for several more days, the Utah Republican told CNN's Jim Sciutto Sunday on "State of the Union."
Paul, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican who's running for president in 2016, and his allies in both parties are stalling efforts to extend the National Security Agency's authority under the Patriot Act to collect bulk phone data — including who Americans have called, when and how long they were on the phone.
Senators are returning to Washington on Sunday to take up a House-passed bill that would have phone companies, rather than the NSA, collect and store that data.
It's a compromise measure that is backed by the White House, but has faced criticism from national security advocates who say it's too weak.
Lee said the bill, which is supported by most Senate Democrats and several Republicans, would help Congress "stop governing by cliff." He called it a fair balance between privacy and security concerns.
"This is a good day for the American people whose rights will be protected," Lee said.
Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, lambasted the NSA program's critics for "unilaterally disarming an important national security tool at a time when I've never seen the threat level higher."
He said on "State of the Union" that he supports moving the process of holding onto phone data away from the government and to the phone companies.
But, he said, phone companies should be required to keep that data for years — or else "the program loses its functionality altogether and you've in effect repealed it without really saying so."