The House resumed a semi-“normal” schedule this week as they began using “proxy voting.” I’ll be posting an in-depth explanation of the new proxy voting rules next week.
What a week it was!
The House was scheduled to vote on H.R. 6172, the legislation reauthorizing three of the most dangerous provisions of the USA FREEDOM Act, along with an amendment to the bill requiring federal agencies to obtain a warrant before spying on Americans’ Internet use.
A similar amendment came within one vote of passing the Senate last week and would have passed had two Senators -- who claimed they would have voted for it -- not missed the vote. 60 votes were needed for passage.
Unfortunately, the lead sponsor for the amendment in the House, Democrat Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), agreed to change the amendment to get the support of House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (CA-28). Schiff’s change opened the door for the FBI and other intelligence agencies to collect all data connected to an IP address without first making sure there were no American citizens using that site. In other words, Schiff’s changes provided a loophole for intelligence agencies to continue collecting our Internet history without first obtaining a warrant.
This change caused the amendment to lose support from progressive Democrats and liberty-minded Republicans, including the amendment’s lead Republican cosponsor Warren Davidson (OH-8). As a result, Speaker Pelosi decided to bring the bill to the floor without providing any opportunity to vote on the amendment.
Then, President Trump tweeted his hope that Republicans would oppose the bill because it did not reform the FISA court. President Trump then promised to veto the bill if it came to his desk, so Republicans who voted for the bill in March changed positions and opposed it this time around. Pelosi could not pass the bill without Republican support.
So instead of voting on the actual bill, the House voted to request a conference with the Senate. The motion to go to conference passed by a vote of 281-122. You can see the vote here.
The House conferees include Democrats Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) plus Republicans Jim Jordan (OH-4) and Devin Nunes (CA-22).
The Senate will likely vote to go to conference and appoint conferees when they return to D.C. next week.
It is frustrating to come so close to getting real reform that rolls back the surveillance state, but I would urge Campaign for Liberty supporters to consider how far we have come. Five years ago, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell was able to block Senator Rand Paul from offering ANY amendments to the USA FREEDOM Act. This time around, we nearly passed the amendment banning warrantless seizure of our Internet browsing and search history. And your continued action paid off when the House could not muster enough votes to pass the bill outright. If the House were to hold an up-or-down vote on forcing government agencies to get a warrant before spying on our Internet use, we very well could win.
We are making progress on this issue.
Campaign for Liberty will continue to push to end all unconstitutional surveillance, and as long as we can count on the support of our grassroots activists, I am confident we can win this battle.
Tags: USA Freedom Act, FISA