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International Business Times
International Business Times
Kiran Tom Sajan

Deadlock In House As Republican Faction Rejects FISA Bill To Reauthorize Key Spy Tool

US House Speaker Mike Johnson (Credit: AFP)

A faction of House Republicans rejected a procedural vote on Wednesday aimed at initiating debate on a bill extending the nation's warrantless surveillance powers that national security officials call crucial to gathering intelligence and fighting terrorism.

With 19 Republicans aligning with Democrats and a vote count of 193-228, the House opposed a rule governing legislation designed to extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), resulting in the measure failing to advance.

The failed procedural vote left the chamber in a state of uncertainty regarding how to address the vital spy tool before its expiration next week.

The breakdown in procedural voting follows an earlier directive from former President Donald Trump to "kill" the program on his social media platform Truth Social.

It is yet another instance of GOP members diverging from the typical party-line vote, signaling their dissent against legislation put forth by leadership.

It also comes several months after a similar effort to reform and reauthorize the surveillance program collapsed before reaching the House floor.

Speaker Mike Johnson has been highlighting the program's critical importance but has faced challenges in charting a path forward on the issue as the matter has long been marred by partisan discord.

This is the fourth time during his tenure as Speaker that the House has rejected a rule vote, causing a significant embarrassment for leadership.

The failed voting triggered a second, heated meeting for House Republicans in the Capitol basement on Wednesday. Lawmakers described the gathering as an "airing of grievances," suggesting it only exacerbated existing internal tensions.

But the Speaker could not find a way to resolve the issue of FISA reauthorization, leaving Republicans in doubt about how the House will meet the deadline to reform foreign surveillance.

Despite Wednesday's deadlock, Speaker Johnson remains optimistic about a breakthrough.

"We still have time on the clock this week," he said.

"We are going to try and find a way to unlock the rule and I think it's possible. We will be talking to members about it tonight, trying to figure that out."

The bill allows the U.S. government to gather foreign intelligence by collecting the communications of non-Americans located outside the country without a warrant. But the reauthorization is currently linked to a set of reforms intended to address concerns raised by critics regarding violations of civil liberties against Americans.

However, Republican opponents argue that these changes do not adequately address their concerns.

Among these critics are some of Johnson's staunchest detractors, members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, who have criticized the Speaker for cooperating with Democrats on several occasions since assuming the role in October.

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