After the surprise vote in the House last month to limit NSA spying in the 2015 Defense appropriations bill, there's been a slight shift toward reform in the Senate. But that could be complicated by the fact that the Senate has a lot of work to get through, a minority that is doing everything in its power to keep that work from happening, and a White House and Intelligence Committee chair in the form of Dianne Feinstein who are opposed to real reforms. Nonetheless, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy is trying to push ahead.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the measure’s top sponsor in the upper chamber, is considering an attempt to bring the bill straight to the Senate floor. The Judiciary Committee has held several hearings on surveillance reforms this Congress but hasn’t yet scheduled a markup.The current language needs to be strengthened, which Leahy's bill would do. This bill is perhaps the highest-level power struggle you can imagine, between the intelligence agencies and the White House and two of the more powerful committee chairs in the Senate—Feinstein and Leahy—at loggerheads. Reid has been playing his own position close to the vest. All of this has slowed the momentum of reform since the Snowden revelations began to highlight the vast overreach by the intelligence community into the lives of American citizens. The House vote pushed it back into prominence, but it's still an uphill fight for Leahy and the reforms, including Mark Udall (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and (god help us) Rand Paul.
Leahy “has been calling for these reforms for years and is working to ensure the Senate seizes on this historic opportunity to pass real reform this work period,” one of his aides said.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) doesn’t have a floor plan for the surveillance bill yet, a Senate leadership aide said last week. […]
Would-be reformers have a tough needle to thread: The White House and NSA defenders in Congress already support the current language. That means there’s little room to strengthen the measure’s protection against bulk collection and still keep the intelligence community happy.
So American citizens need to stand with Leahy and get as strong a reform bill as possible passed through the Senate.