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McCarthy to Senate: Pass USA Freedom Act 'as Soon as Possible'

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With key provisions of the Patriot Act now expired  and the Senate's plans to reboot them unclear, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy admitted Monday morning he has "a real concern in the safety of the country right now."  

But the California Republican, in a pen-and-pad briefing with reporters, suggested he only saw one good path forward for the Senate to take in the days ahead: pass the House-passed USA Freedom Act. "My only advice is just to get the Freedom Act done," McCarthy said of the legislation that won an overwhelmingly bipartisan victory in the House last month. Proponents argue the bill strikes a good balance between curbing infringements on civil liberties — it ends the bulk phone data collection program — and maintaining portions of the Patriot Act that are needed to protect the homeland.  

Sensenbrenner: Patriot Act Needed Oversight, Not Posturing

Sensenbrenner, left, and Ashcroft discuss the law in 2004. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner can take credit for major legislation during his tenure as House Judiciary chairman, but none carries the weight or consequence of the law that will be his legacy: the USA Patriot Act.  

"There’s no way I can avoid being remembered for this," the Wisconsin Republican told CQ Roll Call. And, he added, the current situation could have been avoided with proper oversight by Congress. In a May 28 phone interview, Sensenbrenner said he didn't mind, nor did he have regret for his role as lead architect of the post-9/11 law that opened the door to vast levels of government surveillance of U.S. citizens.  

Patriot Act Renewal Has Lawmakers on Both Sides on Edge

Amash was in the Capitol Tuesday, "keeping an eye on the House." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With most lawmakers out of town and controversial Patriot Act provisions set to expire in just days, national security hawks in the House and Senate hope Congress can magically pull an agreement out of a hat.  

That possibility — a quick and dirty patch, cobbled together and quietly passed during recess, despite earlier assurances from House leaders that wouldn't happen — had some skeptics on the other side of the issue concerned enough to stick close to the Capitol this week.  

McCarthy: No Plans in House to Budge on NSA Curbs

McCarthy (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has a message for Senate Republicans: If they want to extend expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, they aren't going to do any better than the so-called USA Freedom Act.  

The California Republican wouldn't say whether there was a contingency plan if the Senate doesn't heed that advice. "I think when you get 338 votes, we're meeting someone in the middle," McCarthy said of the bill he characterized as a compromise. "I think there's 338 to pass the USA Freedom Act and the Senate should look at that."  

Immigration Fight Could Return to House This Month

Denham will try again to include in this year's defense bill a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants who serve in the armed forces. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy opened his Friday memo to House members regarding May's legislative agenda by quoting Steve Jobs and praising Republicans for the victories they've overseen in the first 100 days of the 114th Congress.  

But GOP success stories may be overshadowed later this month when Republicans again face one of the most politically dangerous and unforgiving issues for the party: immigration. In considering the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, members could see a repeat of last year's meltdown over Rep. Jeff Denham's plans to offer as an amendment his so-called ENLIST Act, which would provide a legal-status pathway to certain undocumented immigrants in exchange for military service.  

McCarthy Outlines Busy, Maybe Tense, April Work Period

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After a two-week respite, April is shaping up to be a month of long nights, nods to the GOP base and divisions on both sides of the aisle.  

That's according to a memo sent to members Thursday by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.  First on the docket, just in time for Tax Day on April 15, are a series of Republican-sponsored bills "aimed at getting the government off the backs of taxpayers and reforming the institutions that serve them." Also, several measures "to begin the process of restoring trust in the [Internal Revenue Service]," which came under fire in 2013 for stymieing applications of certain conservative outside groups seeking tax-exempt status. Democrats will slam the bills as symbolic messaging gambits; Republicans will be content to pass them all on party-line votes and hope the new GOP-controlled Senate will move them through its pipeline.  

House Votes to Limit NSA Surveillance on Americans

The House passed Massie's bill late Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Defying the Obama administration, a bipartisan veto-proof House majority voted to rein in NSA surveillance of Americans late Thursday.  

The 293-123 vote on the amendment by libertarian-minded Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., had majority support in both parties, although a number of leaders in both parties and chairmen opposed it. Some 135 Republicans and 158 Democrats backed it.  

House Approves Curbs on NSA Snooping (Updated) (Video)

Rogers backed the new NSA rules. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated May 22, 1:38 p.m. | After a year of global criticism of the reach of American phone and data surveillance programs, the House approved new restrictions Thursday that critics dismissed as watered down.  

The USA Freedom Act — backed by Republicans and Democrats and supported by President Barack Obama — would shift the collection and storage of phone metadata from the National Security Agency to private phone companies.  

House Members Push for Open Debate on NSA Snooping

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bipartisan House members are calling for an open debate when the House takes up legislation later this year dealing with a controversial National Security Agency intelligence gathering program.  

Rep. Rush D. Holt, D-N.J., a longtime opponent of the NSA program, is gathering signatures on a letter that he plans to send to top House leaders asking that if a bill reauthorizing the program comes to the floor, it comes under an open rule, meaning any member can offer an amendment.  

Sensenbrenner: Intelligence Director Committed Perjury (Video)

During a Justice Department oversight hearing Tuesday, the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee accused Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. of committing perjury during his Jan. 29 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said he believed Clapper's refusal to acknowledge whether warrantless searches of Americans' communications had been conducted was perjurious after Clapper appeared to concede the point in a letter last week to Sen. Ron Wyden.