House pulls vote on FISA bill

The House late Wednesday nixed a planned vote on the FISA bill passed earlier this month by the Senate and which would authorize three surveillance initiatives in the USA Freedom Act.

“We just formally announced a whip against it because, number one, it's not going to become law,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters. “Number two, there are still so many questions that need to be answered about real abuses that happened in the FISA system.” 

In mid-May the Senate passed an amendment to the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act that would put a check on government surveillance activities by expanding the role of independent “friend of the court” to include FBI surveillance asks in all cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

By voting in the amendment, the Senate sent the bill back to the House, delaying reauthorization of the act. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has had trouble getting support for the bill and President Trump has said he would veto it.

“It’s utter hypocrisy that the president has threatened to veto the bill for not being strong enough, while his own Justice Department urges opposition to reforms that directly address the Carter Page surveillance abuses,” said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani. “It is also disappointing that Congress can’t come together to pass privacy reforms that Republicans and Democrats agree on — and advocated for long before Trump became president.”

If the president was “truly concerned, he should tell his attorney general and many leaders of his own party to stop being roadblocks to reform” and should put his support  behind “bipartisan amendments that have been introduced to improve the FISA bill to better protect privacy,” Guliani said. “Similarly, if leaders in the House are truly committed to safeguarding the Constitution, they should allow a vote on bipartisan amendments to improve the legislation."

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