The Senate Judiciary Committee moved forward Thursday to update a privacy law that would require law enforcement and regulatory agencies to obtain search warrants before getting content of emails and other electronic communications.
But the committee's chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Ranking Member Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) both conceded that the legislation updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is unlikely to be passed in the full Senate during the current lame duck session.
At the hearing, Grassley cited several concerns with the bill in its current form, including the concerns from the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission that it would hinder investigations, and wanted to make exceptions for emergencies like kidnapping or rape.
But Grassley said those issues could be worked out after the bill was passed out of the committee. "I would expect a number of issues to be addressed before any floor consideration," Grassley said.
Leahy said he would also work with the House and get the input of new House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). "This will give us a start in the new session," Leahy said. "There's still work to be done on this."
In other action, the committee "held over" for its next meeting a vote on four district court nominees, a delay that has become routine and is now under fire from liberal groups calling for an end to the practice.
In a letter to Grassley this week, a coalition of 16 groups such as Alliance For Justice and People For the American Way said that there is no justification for the delay while there is a vacancy crisis on the federal bench.
"This isn’t about learning more about a nominee, and it isn't about delaying someone you think might not be qualified to sit on our federal courts," the letter states. "This is about obstruction, pure and simple. And it is precisely the kind of senseless gridlock that the American people have made clear they reject."
Leahy accepted the holdover today and told Grassley he was "within in your right" to do so. Those nominees held over were Katherine Failla for the Southern District of New York; Troy Nunley for the Eastern District of California; Sheri Chappell for the Middle District of Florida; and Pamela Chen for the Eastern District of New York.