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Collins and King at Odds over USA Freedom Act

WASHINGTON - Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins says she can not support the USA Freedom Act in its current form. The bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would take the place of the Patriot Act, which expired last weekend.

In a speech on the Senate floor this morning, Collins said the House bill would make it harder to uncover terrorist plots. "The fact is that the House bill substantially weakens a vital tool in our counter-terrorism efforts, at a time when the terrorist threat has never been higher."

The National Security Agency has had to suspend certain surveillance programs since the Patriot Act expired.

Under the USA Freedom Act, bulk collection of phone call records would continue, but the data would be held by the phone companies and not the NSA.

Maine's other senator, independent Angus King, has expressed support for the House version of the Freedom Act, which includes a provision to move bulk-collected phone data from the NSA to phone companies. King says he favors that, and would like to see minimum limits on how long the carriers must hold onto the information.

The Senate is currently considering Republican-sponsored amendments to the measure, and could take a final vote on the bill as early as later today.