Shutdown Continues Into a Third Day

The U.S. Capitol Building as night falls in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 and Congress continues to negotiate during the second day of the federal government shutdown.

The U.S. Capitol Building as night falls in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 and Congress continues to negotiate during the second day of the federal government shutdown. J. David Ake/AP

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In the shutdown's shadow, Congress also renewed controversial internet spying powers.

The government shutdown continues into the third day after lawmakers failed to reach a short-term spending deal Sunday night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced the Senate would vote noon Monday on a continuing resolution to fund the government through Feb. 8. The resolution wouldn’t address the immigration, border security, increased military spending or disaster relief that lawmakers are still negotiating.

"Should these issues not be resolved by the time the funding bill before us expires on Feb. 8, 2018, assuming the government remains open, it would be my intention to proceed to legislation that would address [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], border security and related issues," McConnell said.

Meanwhile, federal employees must report to work Monday to start orderly shutdown procedures and, depending on their agency, turn in government-issued devices. Some agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communications Commission announced they would remain open using carry-forward funding and transfer authorities, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday.

Furloughed employees will head home assuming no deal is reached, while others who fill critical functions in national security, public safety and health will continue to work without pay until funds are appropriated. The White House on Friday said it would support back pay for furloughed federal employees, though that takes congressional action. The Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act was already introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and 20 sponsors prior to the December continuing resolution.

Active-duty troops also continue working and receive pay after a budget passes. During the 2013 shutdown, Congress moved quickly to make sure they were paid during the shutdown, and this time around Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., attempted to fast-track a similar resolution. McConnell, however, objected, leaving the issue unresolved.

McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va, also introduced the No Government No Pay Act, which would withhold lawmakers’ pay during a shutdown. The bill would go into effect for the next Congress and apply to each new Congress after.

Trump Signs FISA 702 Renewal

President Donald Trump signed a 6-year renewal for a controversial internet spying law Friday, five years after revelations by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden rocketed U.S. surveillance into the spotlight. The Senate voted 60-38, a zero vote margin under Senate rules, to open debate on the bill Wednesday then passed it comfortably Thursday.

Civil libertarians and privacy hawks tried to push an amendment requiring a warrant before law enforcement can query a database of information gathered under the law—Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—but weren’t allowed to debate it on the Senate floor.

Lawmakers Back Microsoft at Supreme Court

Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Chris Coons, D-Del., filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court Thursday arguing against the Justice Department’s position that it should be able to serve warrants on U.S. tech companies for digital information that’s stored outside the United States.

The case stems from Microsoft’s refusal to turn over emails in a drug case that are stored in Dublin. Microsoft argues the pre-internet law at issue—The 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act—doesn’t extend beyond U.S. borders.

The senators’ brief effectively sides with Microsoft and says it should be Congress’s job to update the outdated law for the digital era rather than the court’s job to give the law an internet era interpretation. Hatch has introduced legislation that would do that.

The brief was joined by Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

House Moves to Restore Top Cyber Diplomat

The House passed a bill Wednesday that would reinstate a top cyber diplomat post at the State Department that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson nixed last year.

The bill, which marks a rare break on cyber policy between House Republicans and the Trump administration, would also make the position a presidential appointment. The bill doesn’t yet have a Senate counterpart.

Dem Queries Intel on Spectre, Meltdown Vulnerabilities

At least one lawmaker wants answers from chip maker Intel about massive hardware vulnerabilities in its computer chips. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., wrote to Intel’s chief executive Tuesday seeking a briefing on the vulnerabilities known as Spectre and Meltdown.

“I am looking to better understand the nature of these critical vulnerabilities, the danger they pose to consumers, and what steps your companies plan to take to protect consumers,” McNerney wrote.

Rubio, Van Hollen Aim to DETER Russian Election Meddling

The nation’s spymaster would be required to certify whether or not foreign actors had meddled in each U.S. election within one month, under a bill introduced Tuesday by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

The bill, which the senators call the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines, or DETER, Act would also outline when outside meddling would elicit U.S. retaliation, according to a Washington Post op-ed by the lawmakers.