Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama Urges Senate to Renew Phone-Records Program

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama Urges Senate to Renew Phone-Records Program

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * President Barack Obama called on the Senate Tuesday to extend key Patriot Act provisions before they expire, including the government's ability to search Americans' phone records.

"This needs to get done," he told reporters in the Oval Office. "It's necessary to keep the American people safe and secure."

But with Sunday's deadline fast approaching, there was scant evidence Tuesday of a search for a deal on Capitol Hill. The House and Senate stood in recess for the week, and a House GOP leadership aide said there were no talks happening between the two chambers.

The Senate adjourned for its Memorial Day break early Saturday after a chaotic late-night session during which senators failed to pass a White House-backed House bill reforming the phone collection program. Attempts by GOP leaders to extend current law also repeatedly fell short, amid objections from presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and others.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling the Senate back into session on Sunday, just hours before the midnight deadline, but it's not clear lawmakers will have any new solution.

Back home in Kentucky on Tuesday, McConnell offered no hint of how the impasse might be resolved.

"This is a very big issue that people are divided on. That's what we do. So we're going to work it out in some way and go forward. But there are deep differences of opinion," McConnell told reporters. "We've got to figure some way out of this."

The House bill, which passed by a wide bipartisan margin, was just a few votes short in the Senate on Friday, and House Republicans appear content to hold off on a search for compromise in hopes that pressure will increase on McConnell to accept their bill or see the Patriot Act programs lapse.

McConnell complained that the House bill waters down the bulk collection program that now exists, but acknowledged, "They passed it by a very large margin. So that makes it pretty challenging to extend the law as it is. …

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