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People walk and jog across the East Plaza of the Capitol as Congress prepares to return from the Christmas recess on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Photo: Bill Clark/ CQ/ Roll Call via Getty)

Lawmakers are coming back later this month. So are the big battles over tech policy.

The most urgent: The Section 702 surveillance law — used by the intelligence community to justify warrantless surveillance of electronic communications of foreign nationals located abroad — expires in mid-January, thanks to a short-term extension Congress passed before leaving for the holidays.

That debate pits hard line intelligence hawks against people like Sens. Rand Paul and Ron Wyden, who have threatened a filibuster when faced with the prospect of a long-term extension of the law. In the middle are lawmakers who are pushing for light reforms that won't satisfy the privacy advocates.

Also on the radar:

  • Net neutrality: The battle over net neutrality has moved back to Capitol Hill. There are several bills released or in the works that would aim to put compromise net neutrality rules in place after the FCC rolled back regulations that took effect in 2015. Those haven't gotten pickup from Democrats — who are coalescing behind a plan to pull back the FCC's repeal through congressional action.
  • Self-driving cars: Lawmakers in the Senate have been slowly moving forward with legislation meant to encourage the deployment of self-driving cars, but it's met some resistance from their colleagues. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said shortly before the end of 2017 that she was holding the bill back from being approved through a streamlined process that bypasses debate on the floor of the Senate because she was concerned about the nascent nature of the vehicles.
  • Sex-trafficking: Supporters of a Senate anti-trafficking measure that would create more legal liability for services that post user generated content online are pushing forward. However, they suffered a setback late last year when a tech-backed alternative proposal moved forward in the House.

Go deeper: There are a number of broader issues that matter to tech, including potential legislation on immigration and infrastructure. Axios' Caitlin Owens has a rundown of what's next on Capitol Hill here.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

5 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

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