House GOP considers backup FISA plan to sunset spy tool after stunning floor defeat

House Republicans are regrouping and considering a two-year sunset on a key surveillance law as a way to move forward on reauthorizing security measures after a group of hard-line Republicans effectively killed a procedural rule in a blow to House leaders ahead of next week’s deadline.

The “no” votes of 19 hard-line House Republicans and all Democrats sent House GOP leadership back to the drawing board to find consensus on how to go about renewing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which sunsets every five years.

To get people on board and pass FISA reauthorization ahead of its April 19 expiration date, Republicans are now considering a two-year reauthorization, multiple House lawmakers told the Washington Examiner.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) told the Washington Examiner that he thinks both a two-year reauthorization and a stand-alone vote on an amendment from Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) might unite the conference and allow both the rule and the legislation itself to pass the next time around.

Norman added that he expects a vote on another procedural rule next week, which places lawmakers in a time crunch before important security measures expire.

One House Republican told reporters that the House Intelligence Committee needs to meet because it has been “bending over backwards to the point where our backs are about to break on FISA with people who don’t understand FISA.”

“They just don’t understand it,” said the lawmaker, who spoke on background to comment on internal GOP discussions. “This is dangerous. Like, this is not infrastructure, this is not the tax code, this is not the name of the post office — this is the most important tool to keep all your family safe.”

“And we’re playing Russian roulette with it right now. And I’m not OK with it,” the lawmaker added.

The failed procedural rule came as a blow to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), particularly as advancing a rule is historically voted along party lines and rarely fails on the House floor. However, House Republicans have killed rules multiple times in this Congress as a way to stall action on measures whenever they disagree with Johnson.

At the center of the conflict are the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, which introduced competing proposals with an array of new reforms that primarily involved tightening restrictions on the FBI’s use of the surveillance program.

Though most of the reforms were agreed upon by both committees, the Intelligence Committee opposes warrant requirements for searching data of a U.S. citizen and Davidson’s Not For Sale Act, which would prohibit the third-party sale of U.S. citizens’ data and information without a court order.

Johnson had quashed any possibility of including the Ohio Republican’s amendment in the FISA renewal legislation, causing Davidson to hope for a stand-alone rules vote on his bill next week rather than have it arrive on the floor under suspension this week.

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Another House Republican who spoke on background to discuss details about negotiations regarding FISA said he believes the conference is close to finding a compromise that will allow the legislation to move forward.

“I mean, I think part of this fight is that people have been fixing for a fight,” the member said. “I don’t know that we’re actually that far apart. This is one of the dumber blowups I’ve seen in the 118th [Congress] and just didn’t have to get here. And so I’m actually relatively optimistic.”

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