The National Security Agency's authority to collect US phone data en masse is set to expire at the end of this month, and key votes on the program in both houses of Congress are expected to come up this week. But if the bill that reaches the Senate floor is Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell'sstraight renewal of the program and doesn't include any reforms, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has said he'll filibuster it.
"I'm tired of extending a bad law," Wyden said on MSNBC yesterday. "If they come back with that effort to basically extend this for a short term without major reforms like ending the collection of phone records, I do intend to filibuster."
Wyden, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been talking about surveillance overreach since well before the Snowden leaks occurred in 2013. It isn't clear how many Senators would support a straight renewal of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, but it seems very unlikely that they would get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
The bill renewing the programs is sponsored by McConnell (R-Ky.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.). Support for straight renewal isn't universal amongst Republicans, including among the party's presidential hopefuls. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and presumed candidate Jeb Bush both support renewing the program, but Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have both said they won't support the NSA program as-is.
The political duel comes just one week after an appeals court said the NSA bulk telephone program was illegal, in part because many members of Congress had no idea what the NSA was doing.
In the coming weeks, Congress will have to do one of three things: renew the program as-is, change it, or let it expire. Since Congress now clearly does know how the programs operate, some have argued that the 2nd Circuit decision has little relevance. Former NSA general counsel Stewart Bakertold National Journal this weekend that the 2nd Circuit decision amounts to a "97-page law review article."