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McCarthy urges Democrats to pull surveillance bill

McCarthy urges Democrats to pull surveillance bill
© Bonnie Cash

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Iran, Russia election bombshell; final Prez debate tonight MORE (R-Calif.) on Wednesday asked Democratic leadership to hold off on a vote on the reauthorization of three expired surveillance programs.

"I've asked the Democrats to hold this bill up for two different reasons," the California lawmaker said in an appearance on "Fox & Friends."

McCarthy said that the bill should be held over concerns about proxy voting and allegations that former President Obama used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to spy on American politicians.

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The push from the Republican leader to hold off on the bill leaves little time for Democratic leadership to make a decision; the surveillance bill is set to be on the House floor later in the day.

The Hill has reached out to spokespeople for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Businesses, wealthy brace for Biden tax hikes | Dow falls more than 650 points as COVID-19 cases rise, stimulus hopes fade | Kudlow doesn't expect Trump to release detailed economic plan before election Overnight Health Care: US sets a new record for average daily coronavirus cases | Meadows on pandemic response: 'We're not going to control it' | Pelosi blasts Trump for not agreeing to testing strategy Gaffes put spotlight on Meadows at tough time for Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTop Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief This week: Coronavirus complicates Senate's Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Md.) for comments on McCarthy's request.

McCarthy's push to delay the bill comes after President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE on Tuesday broke his silence on the legislation, urging House Republicans to vote against the bill.

“I hope all Republican House Members vote NO on FISA until such time as our Country is able to determine how and why the greatest political, criminal, and subversive scandal in USA history took place!” Trump tweeted.

Trump has alleged that FISA was abused by the FBI to improperly surveil members of his 2016 campaign and undermine his White House bid. 

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A Justice Department inspector general investigation completed last year faulted the FBI for errors and omissions in surveillance applications used to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page as part of the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the election, but said it did not find evidence of political bias.

McCarthy's request adds to the already precarious situation of the surveillance bill, with support on the left appearing to fracture.

The Senate approved legislation in a bipartisan vote earlier this month reauthorizing three expired surveillance programs under the USA Freedom Act, a 2015 intelligence reform law.

House leaders agreed earlier this week to consider an amendment to that legislation aimed at tightening the limits on law enforcement's ability to access Americans’ web browsing history after a similar provision was defeated by just one vote in the Senate.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Ore.), however, one of the co-sponsors of the failed Senate provision, on Tuesday evening pulled his support from the amendment brought by Reps. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenWhy prevailing wage reform matters for H-1B visas Fears grow of voter suppression in Texas Business groups start gaming out a Biden administration MORE (D-Calif.) and Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonHillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns MORE (R-Ohio) after comments made by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) about its scope.

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In a statement backing the amendment to reporters, Schiff seemed to suggest that the measure would allow room for law enforcement to continue the collection of Americans' records as long as they are relevant to a foreign intelligence investigation.

Wyden then pulled his support from the amendment and urged House members to vote down the whole package.

“The House Intelligence Committee chairman’s assertion that the Lofgren-Davidson amendment does not fully protect Americans from warrantless collection flatly contradicts the intent of Wyden-Daines, and my understanding of the amendment agreed to earlier today," the Oregon lawmaker said in a statement, referencing Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesDemocrat trails by 3 points in Montana Senate race: poll Poll shows statistical tie in Montana Senate race Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Mont.).

Demand for Progress, a key progressive internet rights group that pushed for a House amendment, on Wednesday morning also urged lawmakers to oppose the bill.

"It seems increasingly likely that Section 215 is being used in contradiction to lawmakers' and the public's understanding of the law, and that the FBI may be misusing this authority to conduct dragnet surveillance of the internet activity of people in the United States," Sean Vitka, the group's senior policy counsel, said in a statement.