Conservatives threaten to sink FISA renewal as House Republicans battle over federal surveillance tool

Conservative privacy hawks in the House of Representatives are threatening to tank a chamber-wide vote on renewing a key government surveillance tool known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).The fight to renew the program for five years is a major test for Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and his razor-thin majority, particularly as he faces heat from his right flank for apparently showing opposition to an amendment for additional warrant requirements for collection of U.S. citizens’ data – something the Intelligence Community and its congressional allies have also opposed.”I disagree with that. It’s going to jeopardize the rule and the bill,” warned Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., when asked about Johnson being against the warrant amendment.Section 702 allows the federal government to surveil non-Americans on foreign soil with suspected terror links without a warrant, even if the person on the other side of their communications is an American.PUBLIC TRUST IN FBI HAS REACHED ‘THE RED ZONE,’ US INCHING CLOSER TO ‘MAYHEM, CHAOS, ANARCHY:’ WSJ COLUMNISTThe House is expected to potentially advance a bill to renew it on Wednesday afternoon via a traditionally sleepy procedural hurdle known as a rule vote, which if passed allows for debate before an eventual vote on the bill itself. A rule vote would typically fall along party lines, with even lawmakers opposed to the bill voting in favor of allowing it to proceed if it was introduced by their own side. However, rule votes have been weaponized multiple times in this Congress, particularly by members of Johnson’s right flank, to express opposition to the leadership’s handling of an issue.Multiple sources told Fox News Digital on Tuesday that Johnson said he was against additional warrant requirements for collecting data of American citizens that were sought by privacy hawks – just as the House is set to consider a Judiciary Committee-backed amendment on the issue.VEHICLE RAMS INTO GATE AT FBI OFFICE IN ATLANTA, DRIVER ARRESTED”He said he was going to come out publicly against it,” a GOP lawmaker said when asked about his conversations with Johnson about the amendment. “That would effectively kill 702, if that passed.”On the other side of the argument, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good, R-Va., told Fox News Digital, “It is my understanding that he is against [the amendment.]””I think he’s mistaken, I think he’s wrong,” Good said. He would not say whether he’d vote for the rule on Wednesday, saying instead, “I think everything is on the table to protect Americans’ constitutional liberties.”Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., who also said she’s against the FISA bill, was blunt in her assessment of the bill’s fate: “The rule is going to be tanked. It sounds like only two votes are needed, as I understand it.”And at least one Republican has signaled they’d block the bill from getting a vote so far – Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said on his podcast Tuesday that he plans to oppose the rule because the final bill did not include a separate amendment on warrants for the purchase of Americans’ data from third-party brokers. House GOP leaders have signaled that amendment would get its own vote as a stand-alone bill sometime later.FBI DIRECTOR SAYS CHINESE HACKERS ARE ‘POISED TO ATTACK’ AS INFILTRATIONS REACH ‘FEVER PITCH’National security hawks and members of the intelligence community have called it a critical tool for preventing another 9/11-style attack. But critics, which include both conservatives and progressives, have been seeking to limit its scope after reported instances of abuse to collect data on Americans.The Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act, a compromise bill between the House Judiciary Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is aimed at curbing instances of abuse by instituting safeguards on accessing Section 702-collected data, particularly if it involves a U.S. citizen. But conservatives who have criticized Section 702 as overbroad have argued the compromise bill does not do enough to rein in the potential for exploitation of Americans’ private communications.If it passes the Wednesday rule vote, the final vote will be preceded by one on the amendment, backed by the Judiciary Committee, to ban warrantless searches of U.S. citizens before voting on the final bill – the amendment Johnson is said to oppose.The fight over Section 702’s renewal has been among the most bitter that House Republicans have had to contend with. The current process is House GOP leaders’ third attempt at the tool’s renewal before the April 19 deadline.Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who is threatening to potentially force a vote on ousting Johnson from power, has criticized how he’s handled FISA reform, among other issues like Ukraine and government spending.”It’s shocking. You know, if he calls himself a conservative, I don’t know how he can be against stronger warrant mandates for the FISA reauthorization,” Greene told Fox News Digital, adding that she’s not made a decision on how she would vote on the rule.Fox News Digital reached out to Johnson’s office for comment on GOP hardliners’ pushback and his stance on the warrant amendment, but did not immediately hear back.With the current makeup of the House, Johnson can only afford to lose at most two Republican votes – at full attendance – to still pass a bill along party lines.
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