House Conservatives Tank FISA Vote In Blow To Speaker Mike Johnson

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The House of Representatives on Wednesday blocked a bill to reauthorize a controversial provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), dealing a blow to House Speaker Mike Johnson’s leadership.

Section 702 of FISA enables the U.S. government to operate large-scale electronic surveillance programs, which have been heavily criticized by congressional Republicans and some left-wing Democrats for enabling the warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, and requires periodic reauthorization from Congress every five years, with April 19 being the year’s extended deadline to do so. On Wednesday, several Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against a procedural rule vote to advance the House GOP leadership-backed reauthorization bill, leading to its defeat by a vote of 228 nays to 193 yeas. (RELATED: House Republicans Rail Against Possible Extension Of Intelligence Agencies’ Warrantless Surveillance Program)

“It’s a critically important piece of our intelligence and law enforcement in this country,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday attended by the Daily Caller News Foundation, while noting the bill’s proposed reforms to FISA to prevent abuses. “It allows us to continue killing Hamas terrorists…It allows us to track shipments of the least illicit chemicals used to make fentanyl and allows us to protect U.S. warships from attacks by Houthi rebels, allows us to stop China from stealing American intellectual property and it prevents ransomware attacks against American companies.”

Along with all Democrats, 19 House Republicans voted against the rule. They included Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona — who had proposed an amendment to require warrants before any U.S. citizen’s information is accessed using FISA Section 702 authority — as well as Reps. Bob Good of Virginia, Chip Roy of Texas, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Nancy Mace of South Carolina.

“[These are] the same old establishment swamp tactics we dealt with under John Boehner,” said Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania about the leadership’s plan to proceed with the bill.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, came out against the bill on Wednesday morning in a post on Truth Social. “It was illegally used against me, and many others. They spied on my campaign!” Trump wrote.

The failure of the rule vote prompted the cancellation of all further votes in the House on Wednesday. House Republicans have previously voted against such measures in protest against their conference’s leadership, with the slim two-seat majority in the House leading such measures to fail.

Section 702 authority has been demanded by the U.S. intelligence community as a key component of national security efforts. “[T]here is no way to replicate Section 702’s speed, reliability, specificity, and insight,” Attorney General Merrick Garland and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines wrote in a joint letter to Congress in 2023.

“We will regroup and reformulate another plan. We cannot allow Section 702 of FISA to expire. It’s too important to national security. I think most of the members understand that,” Johnson told reporters after the vote, according to comments provided by his office. “It’s never helpful for the majority party to take down [rule votes]. It weakens our hand in negotiations with the Senate and the White House, and so it’s not a good development.”

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