Democratic Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler of New York canceled Wednesday’s hearing on reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as Democrats remain divided on the legislation.
According to Politico, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California was set to introduce five amendments to the bill being shepherded through the committee. Some House Democrats viewed the amendments as “poison polls” that would sink the legislation hammered out by Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, also from California.
The legislation was expected to pass the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, opening the door for a full-chamber vote to renew the program before its expiration date on March 15. Democrats, however, now face an inter-party feud over details of the bill that will likely push back the vote.
One senior Democratic aide told Politico the current bill was the product of talks between Nadler and Schiff and their committees.
“The committee and Chairman Nadler have been working very carefully in intense negotiation for months with all the interest groups and had worked out a very carefully negotiated reform bill of FISA,” the aid told the paper.
Lofgren pushed back on the idea that her amendments aiming to more broadly restrain the government’s surveillance powers would derail the proposal currently on the table.
“I reject that categorization of what we’re doing here,” Lofgren told Politico. “We’re making policy. This isn’t some game where side deals that are done in secret without the concurrence of the committee of jurisdiction is somehow binding on the numbers of the committee.”
Three major provisions of the FISA law are set to expire without authorization on March 15, which would interrupt surveillance operations conducted by the FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA). A recent earthshattering report from the Justice Department inspector general has presented roadblocks for lawmakers seeking to renew the programs.
In December, the DOJ inspector general determined that the FBI made 17 glaring omissions from FISA warrant applications seeking permission to secretly spy on the Trump campaign through its deep-state “Crossfire Hurricane” operation. Supposed public servants abused their power to charge President Donald Trump and members of his campaign of being traitorous Russian agents.
Republicans have pushed for changes of their own. Similar to Lofgren, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio has endorsed measures seeking to more broadly curtail government power. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz told the Washington Times that the Wednesday hearing was canceled because Lofgren’s amendments would have passed with a bipartisan vote.
“The reason we are not having the hearing today is that there was a consensus among the pipe-swinging progressives and the libertarian Republicans to roll the establishment of both parties,” Gaetz said. “We would have had the votes today, which is why the markup is canceled.”
Rep. Greg Stuebe of Florida expressed the same sentiments to the Times.
“I think internally, the Democrats are having problems,” Stuebe told the D.C. paper.
Attorney General William Barr privately told Republicans, according to Politico, that the Trump administration would support reauthorizing FISA with some minor changes. The president has criticized U.S. intelligence agencies for weaponizing government spy powers against their political opponents.