Speaker Johnson withdraws both FISA bills from House consideration

 December 12, 2023

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) withdrew both GOP-led FISA overhaul bills from a potential vote on Tuesday after competing factions couldn't agree on either bill during a contentious GOP conference meeting Monday night.

One bill came from the Judiciary Committee while the other came from the Intelligence Committee, and both had their supporters and detractors among the GOP. Both bills seek to deal with the renewal of section 702 of FISA, which gives DHS vast powers to surveil foreigners who converse with Americans, but has been used by law enforcement to spy on Americans without a warrant.

The Intelligence bill has been criticized for renewing section 702 for eight years with few changes, other than in some ways expanding the authority. The Judiciary bill places more limits and only renews for three years to further review whether the authority is still being abused.

The Tuesday vote would have been what's called a "queen of the hill" vote, which means that both bills would get a vote and whichever one got more votes would be sent to the Senate.

Getting it together

But after the Monday night conference meeting where Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), a supporter of the Judiciary bill, accused Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner (R-OH) of “f***ing lying” about the Judiciary bill, Johnson pulled both.

Turner said the Judiciary bill “spends more time expanding the constitutional rights of foreigners who travel in and out of the United States. It creates civil liability for telecommunications companies that work with our intelligence community voluntarily.”

He also complained that the Judiciary bill fails to allow prosecution of “horrific crimes” discovered using section 702 foreign intelligence-collection powers.

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and others suggested having the committees work through their differences to create one bill that all Republicans could support.

Short-term plan

It will be next year until anything happens with the bill at this point.

A Thursday vote on the National Defense Authorization Act will include a short-term renewal of FISA until April 19.

It is unclear whether a bill passed in the House would pass the Senate or make it past a presidential veto.

As the legislation is currently written, the government reports that more than 4,000 violations of it occur each year.

The FBI treats it as a surveillance bill for Americans, when it was never intended to apply to Americans.

It should not be surprising that the government would abuse surveillance rights, should it?

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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