February 16, 2024

Johnson Forced to Stall Section 702 Legislation

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) continues to face challenges in his short time as the Speaker.

Johnson started off rough, but most Republicans gave him the benefit of the doubt due to the circumstances when he took over as Speaker.

Now, however, he is fighting off different factions of the House GOP caucus, and he could find himself removed as Speaker if he cannot get everyone on the same page.

Problems in the House

Johnson has been fighting off challenges from the outset.

After the first session break, he was put on notice by members of the Freedom Caucus, most notably Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

Both were unhappy with how Johnson was handing spending bills, and both noted that removal was clearly on the table if things did not change.

Now, however, Johnson is getting resistance from the House Intelligence Committee, who threatened to submarine a bill, which resulted in Johnson delaying a vote on the bill.

GOP committee members were unhappy with language that had been added to a bill to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

This is a piece of legislation that I would wager to say most Americans knew very little about until the Trump-Russian collusion case.

When it was revealed that then-FBI Director James Comey abused the FISA warrant process to spy on Trump and his operatives, it was top of mind for every political junkie in the country.

It appeared that the bill was well on its way to go to committee for a vote, but then members of the House Intelligence Committee threatened to purposely tank the vote, which would have killed the legislation, so Johnson announced that the vote would be delayed.

One source stated, "Someone in leadership staff ended up drafting text that got inserted into the base text over the weekend, so they basically airdropped … this one paragraph into the base text that now makes that amendment germane.

"The amendment totally screws FISA, the text that was added totally screws FISA in terms of its ability to be a national security tool."

A second source said much the same thing, stating, "This was airdropped in there.

"This was not something that the seven members of the working group had ever digested, ever looked at. So really, it was disingenuous to think that that would be a part of that. And essentially, [House GOP leadership] agreed."

The amendment was later clarified, with another source explaining, "What they're asking for is a secondary requirement, a warrant which would be a warrant for the query of a database of already lawfully collected data … that would be the equivalent of a police officer needing a warrant before running a license plate."

Section 702, as it is currently written, expires on April 19, so Johnson is yet again on the clock for something that has created considerable division in the party.

If he does not figure all this out soon, it is hard to imagine he would win a second term as Speaker of the GOP manages to hold onto the House.

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