House Conservatives Deal BLOW To Speaker Johnson

House conservatives on April 10 tanked a procedural vote to advance a surveillance power reauthorization bill in protest against its lack of warrant requirements. The development is another blow to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) who already faces an ouster threat from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

In a 193-226 vote, lawmakers voted not to advance Rep. Laurel Lee’s (R-Fla.) “Reforming Intelligence and Securing America” Act, which would extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s (FISA’s) controversial Section 702 for a period of five years. The warrantless surveillance power is due to lapse on April 19.

While such procedural votes normally advance along party lines, 19 Republicans joined all Democrats to block the bill, employing a tactic increasingly used by GOP factions to apply pressure on leadership.

Conservatives who voted against the bill’s advancement were Reps. Greene, Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), Michael Cloud (R-Texas), Bob Good (R-Va.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Chip Roy (R-Texas.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Clay Higgins (R-La.), Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), Cory Mills (R-Fla.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Matt Rosendale (R-Md.), and Greg Steube (R-Fla.)

It’s yet another failure for House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who in February had to pull a similar bill from the floor.

FISA Section 702 is one of several post-9/11 surveillance authorities that have come under scrutiny as some lawmakers from across the political aisle have raised alarm over its potential to violate the civil liberties of Americans.

Section 702, which was last authorized in 2018, was intended to permit warrantless surveillance of foreign nationals located outside the United States. However, in practice, it also sweeps up communications with U.S. citizens.

This vulnerability has allowed FBI agents to extensively misuse the tool in recent years, using it to search for the names of Black Lives Matter and Jan. 6 protesters.

The agency asserts that the program is vital to national security and that it has since undergone reform. Nevertheless, critics across the political spectrum have been apprehensive regarding the possibility of further constitutional infringements.

Former President Trump earlier on April 10 called on House Republicans to “KILL FISA,” pointing to how the FBI misused Section 702 to spy on his 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Mills, who voted against the bill, said after the vote that the result “isn’t a defeat for Johnson. It’s a victory for Americans.”

Mr. Roy told reporters after the failed vote: “We’re here to stand up for the people who are tired of [the] situation … where the defense industrial complex, the Intel Committee, they get to see all this stuff behind closed doors and tell us what they’re going to do.

“The Founders were very clear about what we need to fear … about how they will use foreign conflicts, foreign power as a smokescreen for going after our civil liberties. And that’s what we saw happening here.”

When the House Rules Committee on April 9 advanced the legislation for a floor vote, they left the issue of whether to require a warrant to a vote of Congress.

The warrant issue has spurred the creation of unlikely alliances, bringing such disparate lawmakers as House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) into agreement.

“When you have the history we have with this organization relative to not following the rules, we think you need a separate and equal branch of the government … to approve a warrant,” Mr. Jordan said in defense of the amendment during his opening remarks. “The warrant requirement has to be in the legislation or I don’t think we’ve done our job.”

Mr. Nadler agreed, saying that without a warrant requirement, the changes in Ms. Lee’s bill would be “so modest they would prove ineffective.”

The failure of the rule vote marks another loss for Mr. Johnson, who has already faced several failed rule votes during his roughly six months as speaker.

via zerohedge

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