House clears a hurdle on reauthorizing FISA spy program after previous GOP setback

Written by on April 12, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — The House is one step closer on Friday to reauthorizing a key U.S. spy program considered crucial to national security.

After hard-line Republicans dealt a blow to Speaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday by tanking a routine procedural vote on the bill, the House passed the rule on Friday morning — teeing up debate, consideration of amendments and a final vote. All Republicans voted for the rule.

The measure would renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is set to expire on April 19.

Section 702 allows the U.S. government to collect electronic communications of non-Americans located outside the country without a warrant.

It has come under scrutiny among some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and civil liberties groups because it sometimes results in the collection of data on Americans who are in contact with those surveilled individuals.

Wednesday’s failed vote, in which 19 Republican hard-liners voted against part leadership, came after former President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue at the last-minute. In a message posted to his social media platform, Trump wrote: “KILL FISA.”

House Republicans huddled Wednesday evening and Thursday to regroup, and the House Rules Committee on Thursday night voted 8-4 to advance the FISA bill, teeing it up for a full floor vote on Friday.

The committee approved a new version of the FISA bill, which would reauthorize it for two years. The previous version would have done so for five years.

Some of the GOP members who voted to tank the rule vote on Wednesday indicated they’ll support the new plan.

“I am really grateful at the receptiveness to some of our requests,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said.

“We just bought President Trump an at-bat. The previous version of this bill would’ve kicked reauthorization beyond the Trump presidency. Now, President Trump gets an at-bat to fix the system that victimized him more than any other America,” Gaetz added.

Gaetz said he was given “absolute assurance” from Speaker Johnson that next week the House will vote on a privacy bill from Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio.

Texas Rep. Chip Roy said he is “optimistic” they are moving in the right direction on FISA and Virginia Rep. Bob Good said “going from five years to two years is a good thing.”

The White House in a statement Thursday that the administration “strongly supports” reauthorizing section 702 of FISA, warning without it they would be deprived of “insight into precisely the threats Americans expect their government to identify” such as terrorist threats, fentanyl supply chains, critical infrastructure threats and more.

However, the White House expressed strong opposition to an amendment being offered that would require the government to get a warrant to see data from Americans who are found to be communicating with foreign targets.

“The amendment would prohibit U.S. officials from reviewing critical information that the Intelligence Community has already lawfully collected, with exceptions that are exceedingly narrow and unworkable in practice,” the White House argued.

Despite White House opposition, the Congressional Progressive Caucus publicly backed it along with many far-right Republicans.

The progressive caucus said the amendment would target abuse and “codify” protections for Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. It was introduced by Arizona Republican Andy Biggs, Washington Democrat Pramila Jayapal, New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, Ohio Republican Jim Jordan and California Democrat Zoe Lofgren.

The amendment will be one of six amendments considered before final passage of the FISA reauthorization. It’s not clear if it will pass.

ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

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