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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

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.

Exclusive: Hundreds of kids held in Border Patrol stations

Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to get to El Paso, Texas. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images

More than 700 children who crossed from Mexico into the United States without their parents were in Border Patrol custody as of Sunday, according to an internal Customs and Border Protection document obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The current backup is yet another sign of a brewing crisis for President Biden — and a worsening dilemma for these vulnerable children. Biden is finding it's easier to talk about preventing warehousing kids at the southern border than solving the problem.

Pompeo plots 2024 power play

Mike Pompeo in Washington on Feb. 12. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Mike Pompeo has quickly reentered the political fray, raising money for Republicans, addressing key political gatherings and joining an advocacy group run by Donald Trump's former lawyer.

Why it matters: The former secretary of state is widely considered a potential 2024 presidential contender. His professional moves this week indicate he's working to keep his name in the headlines and bolster a political brand built largely on foreign policies easily contrasted with the Biden White House.

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