House votes to reapprove law allowing warrantless surveillance of US citizens

Published 2:08 pm Friday, April 12, 2024

The House voted Friday to reauthorize and reform a key U.S. government surveillance tool following a dramatic showdown on the floor over whether the FBI should be restricted from using the program to search for Americans’ data.

The bill was approved on a bipartisan basis, 273147, though it will still have to clear the Senate to become law. The surveillance program is set to expire on April 19 unless Congress acts.

Passage of the bill represented a muchneeded victory for Speaker Mike Johnson, RLa., who has been wrangling with conservative critics of the legislation for months. A group of 19 Republicans revolted to block the bill from coming to the floor earlier in the week, forcing Johnson to make late changes to secure their support.

Email newsletter signup

The legislation approved Friday would extend the surveillance program for two years, rather than the full fiveyear authorization first proposed. Johnson hoped that the shorter timeline would sway GOP critics by pushing any future debate on the issue to the presidency of Donald Trump if he were to win back the White House in November.

Still, the legislation teetered precariously Friday morning as lawmakers voted on an amendment — vociferously opposed by Johnson, the White House and sponsors of the legislation — that would have prohibited the warrantless surveillance of Americans.

One of his top critics, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said that Johnson’s vote against the warrant requirement was another strike against him.

“Basically, what’s the difference in Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and Speaker Johnson and there’s not one, the Georgia lawmaker said.

The amendment ultimately failed by the narrowest of margins, in a 212212 tie. Supporters breathed a sigh of relief as the vote was gaveled to a close.

The vote on the amendment cut across party lines, uniting progressives and conservatives who agree on little else, but have long been skeptical of the governments surveillance powers.

And opponents of the legislation werent giving up. In a surprise move after the vote was closed on the overall bill, a Republican made a procedural motion preventing the legislation from being sent to the Senate. An additional vote will be needed next week.

The legislation approved Friday would permit the U.S. government to collect, without a warrant, the communications of nonAmericans located outside the country to gather foreign intelligence. The reauthorization is currently tied to a series of reforms aimed at satisfying critics who complained of civil liberties violations against Americans.