Some House Republicans Upset After Bill Fails

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House Republican lawmakers were outraged on Wednesday after 19 of their GOP colleagues blocked the chamber from advancing a bill to renew a key federal surveillance tool.

This move by a small faction of the majority party has become all too common in the current Congress, where they have been weaponizing procedural votes to kill their own party’s legislation as a form of protest against their leadership.

The bill in question is the renewal of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the government to surveil non-Americans on foreign soil suspected of having terror links without a warrant. This tool has been a subject of contention between the House Judiciary Committee and its allies, who view it as a threat to privacy and have pushed for significant reforms, and the U.S. intelligence community and national security hawks in Congress, who argue that it is a necessary tool for preventing terror attacks.

The issue has put Speaker Mike Johnson in a difficult position, torn between two factions within his party. On the one hand, he must appease the conservative privacy hawks who have been vocal about their concerns over Section 702. On the other hand, he is also tasked with satisfying the requests of the intelligence community and national security hawks who view this tool as crucial to their efforts.

The bill failed to advance after a normally routine procedural vote, known as a rule vote, which would have allowed the bill to proceed if it was introduced by the majority party. However, 19 Republicans stood in the way, frustrated by the exclusion of an amendment that would have required warrants for the purchase of U.S. citizens’ data from third-party data brokers.

Many of these conservatives who blocked the bill were still angry at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner for a cryptic statement he released in February, urging for the declassification of information related to a “serious national security threat.”

This was later revealed to be information about Russia’s nuclear capabilities in space. These conservatives accused Turner of trying to muddy the waters in the FISA debate, while Turner defended himself, stating that he was concerned about a potential international crisis.

Despite this divide within the Republican party, there is a consensus that the bill must be renewed before it expires on April 19. Some lawmakers suggest a short-term extension of the current program, while others are considering taking up the Senate’s renewal bill. However, privacy hawks are pushing for more amendments to be allowed on the bill to ensure that all voices are heard, even if those amendments may not pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The issue is not the urgency of renewing Section 702, as both sides agree that it is necessary for national security. The problem lies in the process and the lack of compromise between the two factions within the party. By blocking this bill, these 19 Republicans have effectively handed control over to the minority party, hindering their own party’s efforts to reform and renew this crucial national security tool.