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Can lawmakers come up with a deal for U.S. surveillance rules?

The Senate failed to extend key provisions of the Patriot Act before the holiday recess, leaving little time before the expiration deadline for lawmakers to come to a consensus. Judy Woodruff talks to political editor Lisa Desjardins about what lies ahead.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And now we look at what's next for the rules governing U.S. surveillance.

    Over the weekend, the Senate failed to extend three key provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire in a week. They headed out of town for a recess, leaving little time left to come to consensus.

    To help us understand what lies ahead, NewsHour political director Lisa Desjardins joins us.

    So, Lisa, what happened? They were there into the wee hours Saturday morning, and this — is the Patriot Act hanging by a thread?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    This was a test for new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He took a very strategic risk here, Judy, something that has worked in the past for both sides, and he set a high-stakes vote on a deadline when Congress was going out of town.

    That worked with things like the debt limit, the fiscal cliff. Did not work this time. It was blocked by Rand Paul and some Democrats, notably Ron Wyden of Oregon, some other conservatives as well. It came to that midnight vote and they could not get 60 votes for any one kind of agreement, though it is important to note that on the major votes that happened in that midnight session, one vote did turn out better than the other.

    That's the vote for the revised version of the surveillance powers, one that would limit what the NSA could do. That's called the USA Freedom Act. That was just three votes short, vs. a straight extension with 15 votes short.

    And one thing I noticed, real quickly, Judy, is that that — the division in the Republican Party on these votes was on geographic lines. You looked at Southern senators, Midwestern senators, they all wanted a straight extension. If you have looked at senators, say, in the Southwest, they were willing to revise.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Clearly, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, didn't want this to happen. What went wrong?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    I think that it was really just a showdown over how the Senate works.

    Rand Paul was able to use the power of a single senator and a few other senators. And the truth is, a single senator can hold up the Senate for three or four days. Mitch McConnell could have kept the Senate going for three or four days and run the clock, but he didn't.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, just quickly, Lisa, they come back Sunday, an unusual Sunday session at the end of the Memorial week break.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What needs to happen then? And, meantime, the government has to start planning to cut back on surveillance.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    First of all, senators need to buy their plane tickets. A lot of these Western senators, to come back by Sunday at 4:00, have got to start planning now.

    But, meanwhile, we're going to have very serious talks over the phone, probably starting Wednesday, Thursday, to see if they can come up with a deal. And, Judy, really, there's no known solution right now. It's possible we could see these provisions expire at least for a short time. Completely unknown right now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, we will be watching it all week.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    You got it.

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