The House Rules Committee has decided to set aside two bills aimed at reauthorizing and restructuring Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) due to widespread opposition, avoiding immediate votes on the proposed legislation.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), a member of the committee, confirmed that neither the House Judiciary Committee nor the Intelligence Committee bills concerning the reauthorization of Section 702 would be put to a vote this week, causing a delay in the decision-making process.
Originally, the plan involved presenting both bills for a vote, allowing members to choose between them, with the winning bill moving forward. However, discord emerged during a contentious conference meeting, particularly between Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-OH), disrupting the intended process.
Following the meeting, dissatisfaction arose over the ‘queen of the hill’ strategy, prompting calls for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to select and endorse one bill. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) emphasized the need to take time to ensure the accuracy of the final bill, echoing sentiments expressed by former speakers.
Expressing disappointment over the postponement, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), a supporter of the Judiciary Committee bill, criticized discussions about a short-term extension until April 19, 2024, within the National Defense Authorization Act, a move opposed by several members.
“I’m really disappointed that we’re talking about a four-month extension in the authorities of FISA,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who helped author the Judiciary Committee bill. “So we should be laboring through to get this thing done, in my opinion.”
Section 702 allows the federal government to conduct surveillance on foreign entities without warrants for national security reasons. However, debates revolve around reforms, specifically the inclusion of a warrant requirement for FISA queries involving U.S. citizens.
Significantly differing, the Judiciary Committee’s version proposes comprehensive warrant requirements for all FISA queries on U.S. citizens, while the Intelligence Committee’s version limits warrants to specific situations and FBI officials.
Speaker Johnson’s fluctuating decisions have faced criticism, ultimately resulting in the recent shelving of both bills. This has caused frustration among members who anticipated a resolution on the FISA matter before the end of the year.
Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) emphasized Speaker Johnson’s changing stance on FISA, pointing to the inconsistency and uncertainty within the decision-making process. He suggested that reporters seek clarification from the Speaker himself.
The oscillating decisions by Speaker Johnson have sparked internal conflict and frustration among GOP members, with some characterizing his approach as indecisive and evasive.