The White House on Tuesday expressed its formal support for a bill that would end the National Security Agency's bulk phone-record-collection programs.
"The administration applauds and appreciates the strong bipartisan and bicameral effort that led to the formulation of this bill, which strikes an appropriate balance between significant reform and preservation of important national security tools," the White House said in a statement.
The House is expected to vote on the bill, called the USA Freedom Act, on Wednesday and pass it easily, but the real game is in the Senate.
A Senate version of the USA Freedom Act was put forward by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Republican Sen. Mike Lee, but it faces opposition both from senators who think it goes too far and those who say doesn't go far enough.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has spoken out against USA Freedom, and last monthproposed extending the NSA's programs in their current form until 2020. Two senators, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, have promised to filibusterMcConnell's bid to reauthorize the Patriot Act.
Further complicating the debate, a federal court ruled last week that the NSA's bulk-collection programs are illegal. While the court didn't strike down the program, it said the NSA overstepped the framework that Congress intended to set up when it passed the Patriot Act in 2001.
Lawmakers have just nine legislative days, including today, to act before sections of the Patriot Act that authorize NSA surveillance programs will sunset. If Congress does not act, the provisions of the Patriot Act that authorize NSA surveillance will expire on June 1.