The Senate late Monday delayed its consideration of a vote on a new government eavesdropping bill until January.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) delayed the bill because there were more than a dozen amendments planned, and not enough time remaining on the legislative calendar to manage them.
"Everyone feels it would be to the best interests of the Senate that we take a look at this when we come back after the first of the year," Reid said.
The new surveillance bill is meant to replace a temporary eavesdropping law Congress hastily passed in August. That law, which expanded the government's authority to listen in on American communications without court permission, expires Feb. 1.
The White House expressed disappointment with the delay.
"Each day of delay brings us closer to reopening a dangerous intelligence gap that we closed last summer," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Monday night.
The Senate is grappling with how to update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law that dictates when federal agents must obtain court permission before tapping phone and computer lines inside the United States to gather intelligence on foreign threats.
Agents may tap lines outside the country without court permission.