House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation 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 HoyerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Hoyer on Trump election challenges: 'I think this borders on treason' Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview 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 John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation 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 McCarthyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight 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 ScaliseTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future 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 BarrClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day Redeeming justice: the next attorney general MORE and House leadership cut a deal that was backed by Trump allies, including Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanCheney, top GOP lawmakers ask Trump campaign for proof of election fraud New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future Sunday shows preview: Biden team gears up for transition, Trump legal battles continue and pandemic rages on 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 LeeLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee 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 WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans MORE (D-Ore.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesRick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight 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 LofgrenHillicon Valley: Four major tech issues facing the Biden administration | Pressure grows to reinstate White House cyber czar | Facebook, Google to extend political ad bans House report says lawmakers could securely cast remote votes amid pandemic Why prevailing wage reform matters for H-1B visas 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) only offered the protection to U.S. persons and ultimately lost the support of Wyden after Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn 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 JayapalBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Trump, attorneys step up efforts to reverse election's outcome MORE (D-Wash.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election 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.