The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to let the National Security Agency continue collecting hundreds of millions of Americans' phone records in the fight against terrorism.
The House narrowly rejected an amendment Wednesday that would have ended the program. The amendment was attached to a huge U.S. defense spending bill for 2014. It provoked some passionate debate on the House floor about striking a balance between national security and privacy concerns.
The Obama administration, national security experts in Congress and many House Republicans lobbied hard against the effort to kill the program. Libertarian-leaning conservatives and some liberal Democrats supported the amendment.
Even if it had passed in the House, it would likely not survived in the Senate, and would have been vetoed by President Barack Obama.
The White House says President Obama is still open to addressing privacy concerns brought to light by leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last month.
The Snowden leaks have caused concern in the U.S. and outrage abroad about the extent of the NSA's surveillance of U.S. citizens and of phone and e-mail records of citizens abroad.
Snowden, meanwhile, appeared ready to leave his temporary home at a Moscow airport Wednesday, but his lawyer said there was a snag in his bid for asylum in Russia, so he is staying at the airport for now.
Russian news agencies reported that documents had been delivered authorizing the former U.S. intelligence contractor to leave the international airport's transit zone and formally enter Russia. Snowden has been encamped at the Sheremetyevo Airport for the past month while trying to arrange safe passage to any country where he could avoid pending U.S. espionage charges.
After meeting with Snowden Wednesday, his Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said the U.S. fugitive does not yet have appropriate documents from Russian authorities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused a request from U.S. President Obama to expel Snowden so he can stand trial in the United States.