House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Some Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress 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 plans for immigration bills add uncertainty on Biden proposal This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package 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.


"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.


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 TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm 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 McCarthySome Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Wray says no evidence of 'antifa' involvement in Jan. 6 attack Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC 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 ScaliseRepublican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC Merrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat Why Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now 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 BarrMajority of Republicans say 2020 election was invalid: poll Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case Justice Department renews investigation into George Floyd's death: report MORE and House leadership cut a deal that was backed by Trump allies, including Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJim Jordan calls for House Judiciary hearing on 'cancel culture' CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' 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 LeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine GOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' Judiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyFirst Black secretary of Senate sworn in Press: The big loser: The Republican Party Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote 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 WydenBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine FDR would love the Jobs for Economic Recovery Act MORE (D-Ore.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland Kennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a 'whack job' MORE (R-Mont.) to require a warrant before law enforcement could access web browsing history was first narrowed then dropped from consideration entirely.


The provision from Reps. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenCurator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Architect of the Capitol considering display on Jan. 6 riot Lawmakers say they are 'targets,' ask to boost security MORE (D-Calif.) and Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Top GOP lawmakers call for Swalwell to be removed from Intelligence Committee House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit MORE (R-Ohio) only offered the protection to U.S. persons and ultimately lost the support of Wyden after Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? 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 JayapalProgressives push White House to overturn wage ruling Warren bill would impose wealth tax on M households This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback MORE (D-Wash.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanDemocrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Senate Democrats likely to face key test of unity on 2022 budget Democrats blast Facebook over anti-vaccine pages 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.”


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.