U.S. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin said Thursday that the Senate likely will not vote this week on authorizing electronic surveillance powers for the president.
Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters Thursday that Democratic leaders plan to wait until July take up the bill, which rewrites the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. Durbin said that Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a leading opponent of the bill, has asked that the Senate delay consideration of the bill.
"Sen. Feingold wants additional time, and he would like to postpone it until after the Fourth of July," Durbin said.
The FISA bill is the result of a compromise between Democrats and Republicans on immunity for telecommunications companies. Lawmakers had differed on whether phone companies that are believed to have cooperated with government requests to access customer phone calls and e-mails should be granted immunity from civil lawsuits.
An agreement reached last week would ensure that a district court review the written authorizations handed to the phone companies from the administration stating the program had been approved by the president and the attorney general.
Feingold has said that he plans to offer an amendment to the bill to remove the immunity protections, which posed a major obstacle to attempts to quickly the pass the bill before the end of the week.
Durbin also reiterated statements made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Wednesday that the Senate likely would not vote a comprehensive housing package before a 1-week recess set to begin at the end of the week.
Reid Thursday said the Senate will stay in session until they vote on two remaining items: a supplemental spending package and a bill to set reimbursement rates for physicians under Medicare.
Reid aides have held out the possibility that the Senate could remain in session until Sunday to hold a procedural vote on the Medicare reimbursement bill - a move that appears intended to force Senate Republicans to agree to a final vote on the bill.
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Thursday objected to a motion by Reid to pass the bill, saying Republicans would prefer a 30-day extension of current Medicare law.