House Speaker Delays Government Privacy Issue

House Speaker Mike Johnson once again delayed any action on revising the spy powers of the federal government on Wednesday, as lawmakers are still wrestling with how they should resolve their disputes about how Americans’ privacy should be better protected.

There was a floor vote scheduled for this week about the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act, but that was removed from the schedule as a hearing for the House Rules Committee was taking place. That committee is the one responsible for setting up that legislation to be heard.

The bill was designed to reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That law allows the federal government to have broad powers through which they can collect a huge amount of data that ends up being parsed through for evidence of foreign dangers.

Many people have alleged that the federal government has abused those powers to spy on Americans, even if there isn’t any legitimate foreign security concern.

The scope of the law in question, though, has caused quite the debate between members of the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee in the House.

After the bill was delayed yet again, Raj Shah, who serves as Johnson’s spokesperson, posted on the social media platform X:

“In order to allow Congress more time to reach consensus on how best to reform FISA and Section 702 while maintaining the integrity of our critical national security programs, the House will consider the reform and reauthorization bill at a later date.”

Judiciary Committee members have said they believe the federal government is using Section 702 to spy on American citizens, and as a result, it needs to be revised. They believe that warrants should be necessary before this type of surveillance is allowed.

Some members of the Intelligence Committee believe that if the powers were curtailed, it would hamper various law enforcement agencies and the entire purpose behind these spy powers.

The powers are set to expire in April, which means that lawmakers will have to face a time crunch now that the revision bill has been pushed back again. The Washington Times reported that the House is on recess next week, and will have to deal with how to avoid another potential government shutdown in the near future.

Reauthorization of FISA was first delayed in December after Johnson tried to address two bills that each of the House panels put forward.

The ongoing debate over FISA ended up bringing together the chair of the Judiciary Committee, Republican Jim Jordan, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Representative Jerry Nadler. They are both aligned in the belief that Section 702 needs a lot of revision.

Jordan has argued that Johnson’s base bill does accomplish some positive things, including laying out who has the power to authorize a query under Section 702. However, he said this bill still would allow the FBI to have oversight powers over itself when they try to use Section 702.

As Johnson argued:

“It’s not just good enough to say ‘we have better rules for them to follow.’ You can have the best rules in place, but if they already demonstrated they won’t follow them, that’s not enough.”