House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Military bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation Pelosi: Trump 'himself is a hoax' MORE (D-Calif.) is canceling a vote on a bill to reauthorize three intelligence programs, marking the second day in a row that the legislation has been punted.

"At the request of the Speaker of the House, I am withdrawing consideration of the FISA Act," House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse to vote on removing bust of Supreme Court justice who wrote Dred Scott ruling Black Caucus unveils next steps to combat racism Democrats expect Russian bounties to be addressed in defense bill MORE (D-Md.) said in a statement.

He also appeared to acknowledge that the bill would not have enough support to pass, noting that Republicans who previously supported it were now expected to oppose it.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The two-thirds of the Republican Party that voted for the bill in March have indicated they are going to vote against it now. I am told they are doing so at the request of the president. I believe this to be against the security interest of the United States and the safety of the American people," he said.

Hours earlier, Hoyer's office initially listed the bill as expected to get a vote on Thursday, telling members “that a vote on passage of FISA Reauthorization is expected to occur today.” 

It is the second time in less than 24 hours that House Democratic leadership scrapped a planned vote on the bill, which reauthorizes three lapsed provisions of the USA Freedom Act and a 2015 surveillance law and makes some changes to the court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. 

Democrats had initially been expected to vote on the bill on Wednesday, but Hoyer’s office announced late Wednesday night that they had pulled the bill amid growing opposition from Republicans and progressive defections. 

In a "Dear Colleague" letter on Thursday, Pelosi indicated that the House would try to negotiate a deal with the Senate on a final bill.

“It will be our intention to go to conference in order to ensure that all of the views of all Members of our Caucus are represented in the final product,” she wrote.

ADVERTISEMENT

The decision to pull the bill is a U-turn from only Tuesday, when it appeared to be well on its way to approval before President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE came out in opposition and progressives pulled their support.

Trump on Tuesday night urged Republicans to vote against the bill, citing alleged abuses of surveillance power by the Obama administration to spy on his 2016 presidential campaign.

He then doubled down on the criticism Wednesday, pledging to veto the bill if it was passed.

House Republican leaders, who had backed the bill in March, on Wednesday also stepped up their opposition.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? McCarthy to offer bill withholding funds from states that don't protect statues McCarthy calls on Pelosi to condemn 'mob violence' after toppling of St. Junipero Serra statue MORE (R-Calif.) leveled criticism at FISA during a morning appearance on Fox News.

“We just formally announced a whip against it, because No. 1, it's not going to become law. No. 2, there are still so many questions that need to be answered about real abuses that happened in the FISA system,” House Republican Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseCheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up MORE (La.) said at a press conference.

The House passed an initial version of the bill in March in a 278-136 vote after Attorney General William BarrBill BarrDemocrat asks Barr to preserve any records tied to environmental hacking probe Justice Dept. considering replacing outgoing US attorney in Brooklyn with Barr deputy: report Ousted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week MORE and House leadership cut a deal that was backed by Trump allies, including Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanGOP-Trump fractures on masks open up Democrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers Comer tapped to serve as top Republican on House Oversight MORE (R-Ohio).

But the Senate changed the bill, requiring a second vote in the House, during its debate earlier this month by adding an amendment from Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases Senate panel votes 21-1 to back Justice IG measure over Graham objections Senators offer bill to expand charitable giving tax break MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer Dems request watchdog probe use of federal law enforcement in DC during Floyd protests MORE (D-Vt.) that would let outside counsel review some FISA surveillance requests. Though the bill passed the Senate 80-16, the Justice Department signaled that it now opposed the legislation.

“The Senate ... made significant changes that the Department opposed because they would unacceptably impair our ability to pursue terrorists and spies,” said Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd.

Pelosi took a swipe at the Justice Department on Thursday, writing in the “Dear Colleague” letter that “the administration—particularly some in the Justice Department—would like nothing better than to not have a bill.”

But Pelosi also faced growing opposition from progressives that made it unlikely she could pass the bill with only Democratic support. An initial version of the bill that passed in March garnered only 152 Democratic votes, well short of what she would need to overcome the Republican opposition in the wake of Trump’s veto threat.

An amendment that was initially modeled after one offered by Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress gears up for battle over expiring unemployment benefits Hillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse MORE (D-Ore.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTrump nominee faces Senate hurdles to securing public lands post Political establishment takes a hit as chaos reigns supreme Lincoln Project releases new pro-Biden ad in swing states MORE (R-Mont.) to require a warrant before law enforcement could access web browsing history was first narrowed then dropped from consideration entirely.

ADVERTISEMENT

The provision from Reps. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenFEC commissioner resigns, leaving agency without a quorum again OVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower says California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' | EPA won't defend policy blocking grantees from serving on boards | Minnesota sues Exxon, others over climate change DOJ whistleblower: California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' MORE (D-Calif.) and Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonGOP-Trump fractures on masks open up House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA MORE (R-Ohio) only offered the protection to U.S. persons and ultimately lost the support of Wyden after Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats hit Trump for handling of Russian bounty allegations after White House briefing Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Democrats face tough questions with Bolton MORE (D-Calif.) suggested it left leeway for Americans’ data to be collected during foreign intelligence investigations.

Pelosi said during a press conference Wednesday that leadership dropped the amendment because the Senate version could get the most votes.

Despite concerns with the amendment from progressives, stripping it entirely cost their support for the underlying bill.

Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProgressive lawmakers call for conditions on Israel aid Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down Democratic lawmakers introduce legislation banning government use of facial recognition technologies MORE (D-Wash.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanSteyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary Why Veterans Affairs workers don't trust the Trump administration MORE (D-Wis.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), came out in opposition of the reauthorization shortly after the amendment was dropped. CPC leadership had voiced opposition to the reauthorization bill in March, but roughly two dozen members of the caucus voted for it at the time.

“We have grave concerns that this legislation does not protect people in the United States from warrantless surveillance, especially their online activity including web browsing and internet searches,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

“Despite some positive reforms, the legislation is far too narrow in scope and would still leave the public vulnerable to invasive online spying and data collection.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Daniel Schuman, the policy director for Demand Progress, said Democratic leadership hadn't "earned" enough votes from within their own caucus to pass the bill, dismissing GOP defections.

"Democratic leadership is blaming Republicans on FISA, but Speaker Pelosi blocked pro civil-liberties amendments and stymied reforms over the last year, including yesterday. That's why she doesn't have the votes — she hasn't earned them," he said. "This may surprise some, but Pelosi is a surveillance hawk and has long sacrificed civil liberties on the altar of national security.”

Updated at 11:35 a.m.