News & Politics

House Fails to Pass FISA Reauthorization After Trump Veto Threat

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks to a reporter as she leaves after signing the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, H.R. 266, after it passed the House on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Washington. The almost $500 billion package will head to President Donald Trump for his signature. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) expired last March without Congress reauthorizing the program. The House tried twice this week to wrestle together some kind of compromise that would pass muster with the Republican Senate.

But Donald Trump indicated he would veto the bill in its present form and Republicans, who had voted for reauthorization in March, withdrew their support.

Realizing they couldn’t pass anything without the support of some Republicans, Democrats pulled the bill from the floor and after a late-night conference with Republicans, decided to go on to a conference committee with the Senate find a compromise.

Civil libertarians were relieved as some of the amendments they want to be included in any FISA reauthorization were left out. Now, they can attempt to influence the conference committee.

The Hill:

An amendment that was initially meant to mirror one offered by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in the Senate became a late controversy.

It would have required a warrant before law enforcement could access web browsing history.

But the language from Lofgren and Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) only offered the protection to U.S. persons and ultimately lost the support of Wyden after Schiff suggested it left leeway for Americans’ data to be collected during foreign intelligence investigations.

Stripping that amendment to get GOP votes resulted in dozens of progressives dropping their support. That’s been the problem throughout the entire reauthorization process: what pleases one side displeases the other.

And the Republican Senate will only complicate matters further.

But McCarthy on Thursday did [express] support for sending the initial reauthorization legislation that passed the House in March to conference.

“We spent all day yesterday late into the night until [Democrats] finally came to a conclusion that they could not pass it,” he said during a press conference.

“So, what would you do now in this predicament? I would send it to conference, that’s what regular order is — you have a Senate bill that the House could not pass, you have a House bill go to conference and work on trying to solve the differences. That’s the appropriate way to go,” he added.

For his part, the president is still smarting from the rank abuse of the FISA court by the FBI and the Justice Department. His veto threat made it impossible to pass.

The bill reauthorizes three surveillance programs under the USA Freedom Act, a 2015 intelligence reform law, and makes some changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. But liberals want to torpedo much of the law, or at least pull its teeth. Counterterrorism officials claim the programs are needed to protect America. Spying on Michael Flynn for little or no reason didn’t protect anyone and it’s those sorts of abuses that need to be addressed.

The House and Senate are far apart and both sides are going to have to give a lot to get the programs reauthorized.

The Real Reason Trump Didn’t Name Obama’s Specific Crime in ‘Obamagate’