Johnson allies cooking up scheme to pass domestic snooping bill: ‘Our backs are about to break’

House Republicans are scrambling to find a way to push through the reauthorization of a controversial surveillance tool that many argue has been used to spy on American citizens without the benefit of a warrant.

As BizPac Review reported, 19 House Republicans dealt a blow to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday when they voted with Democrats and blocked a bill to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — a provision that sunsets every five years.

That extended sunset deadline is fast approaching on April 19. With the help of the 19 Republicans, the procedural rule vote to advance the House GOP leadership-backed reauthorization bill was defeated by a vote of 228 nays to 193 yeas.

Citing “multiple House lawmakers,” the Washington Examiner reported that “Republicans are now considering a two-year reauthorization” to get FISA reauthorization passed before April 19th rolls around.

“Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told the Washington Examiner that he thinks both a two-year reauthorization and a stand-alone vote on an amendment from Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) might unite the conference and allow both the rule and the legislation itself to pass the next time around,” according to the Examiner. “Norman added that he expects a vote on another procedural rule next week, which places lawmakers in a time crunch before important security measures expire.”

One GOP lawmaker, speaking on background, warned reporters called for a meeting of the House Intelligence Committee that we’re playing a “dangerous” game by failing to reauthorize the provision.

The Intelligence Committee has been “bending over backwards to the point where our backs are about to break on FISA with people who don’t understand FISA,” the Republican said. “They just don’t understand it.”

“This is dangerous. Like, this is not infrastructure, this is not the tax code, this is not the name of the post office — this is the most important tool to keep all your family safe,” the lawmaker said. “And we’re playing Russian roulette with it right now. And I’m not OK with it.”

“At the center of the conflict are the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, which introduced competing proposals with an array of new reforms that primarily involved tightening restrictions on the FBI’s use of the surveillance program,” the Examiner explains. “Though most of the reforms were agreed upon by both committees, the Intelligence Committee opposes warrant requirements for searching data of a U.S. citizen and Davidson’s Not For Sale Act, which would prohibit the third-party sale of U.S. citizens’ data and information without a court order.”

Johnson previously “supported legislation to close the data broker loophole in July 2023, and the Louisiana congressman supported the USA RIGHTS act, which FreedomWorks described as one of the ‘strongest possible reforms’ of FISA,” Breitbart reported.

His reversal on the issue has been seen as a “flip flop” at best, and, at worst, a betrayal to conservative Americans.

On Wednesday, the speaker attempted to explain his change of heart to reporters.

After receiving classified briefings on Section 702, Johnson said he has a “different perspective.”

“When I was a member of Judiciary I saw the abuses of the FBI, the terrible abuses over and over and over… and then when I became speaker I went to the SCIF and got the confidential briefing on sort of the other perspective on that to understand the necessity of section 702 of FISA and how important it is for national security,” he said. “And it gave me a different perspective.”

“That’s part of the process,” Speaker Johnson said. “You have to be fully informed.”

Rep. John Rose (R-Tenn.) told Breitbart News this week that letting 702 “die” wouldn’t be the “worst” thing that could happen.

“Reauthorizing the FISA Section 702 program without substantial reforms empowers the government to continue warrantlessly surveilling the American people, which goes directly against what the founders intended when they adopted the Fourth Amendment right to privacy,” he said. “Allowing the program to die is far from the worst action Congress could take.”

Meanwhile, another “background”-speaking House Republican is “optimistic” that a compromise will be reached.

“I mean, I think part of this fight is that people have been fixing for a fight,” the lawmaker told the Examiner. “I don’t know that we’re actually that far apart. This is one of the dumber blowups I’ve seen in the 118th [Congress] and just didn’t have to get here. And so I’m actually relatively optimistic.”

“The Rules Committee is set to meet Thursday afternoon,” according to the Washington Examiner, “teeing the bill up for another vote as early as Friday.”

Melissa Fine

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