The congressional debate over one of the National Security Agency's sweeping surveillance programs has come down to the wire, in part because of the unusual alliances the controversial issue has created.
Libertarians and socialists have aligned, while hawkish conservatives in the Senate are at odds withtea partyconservatives in the House. A large compromise group has formed among Democrats and Republicans from both the House and the Senate. Meanwhile, Congress is hearing from unexpected grassroots coalitions, like a partnership between the ACLU and the Tea Party Patriots.
The debate is specifically over the NSA's bulk phone records collection program. It was recently deemed illegal by a federal court, but its authorization stems from Section 215 of the Patriot Act -- a provision that's set to expire on June 1. The House last week passed a bill called the USA Freedom Act, which would put an end to the government's bulk collection of phone records. However, it would still let the government access records from the phone companies, which would be obligated to hold onto those records.
The Senate is trying to figure out how to proceed before it takes off for a weeklong recess -- leaving little time to act before the June 1 expiration date. It could pass the USA Freedom Act, it could pass a clean extension of Section 215, it could pass a short-term extension and prolong the debate, or it could just let Section 215 expire.
Here's a look at where the key players in the debate stand, starting with the most vocal opponents of the NSA's surveillance program and ending with those who think the NSA isn't spying enough.