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U.S. Senate leader expects renewal of surveillance rules

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters after the Senate voted to acquit U.S. President Donald Trump of both charges in his Senate impeachment trial on apitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday he was confident the Senate would approve legislation renewing government surveillance tools, and appealed to lawmakers not to delay the vote until after they expire on Sunday.

In a rare bipartisan vote, the Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the “USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020” on Wednesday. It must still pass the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump to become law.

Congress is due to leave Washington on Thursday or Friday and not return for a week.

“I’m confident this will pass the Senate as well. It’s not a question of if this passes but when,” McConnell said.

Privacy advocates, including liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans, are fiercely critical of the surveillance program.

McConnell appealed to members of the Senate not to use procedural tactics to stop its quick approval.

“We can’t mistake the safety and security that FISA authorities have helped preserve for evidence that they’re no longer needed,” McConnell said.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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