Surveillance bill clears House, but Senate fate remains murky

It’s also unclear if President Donald Trump’s will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Last week, Trump told GOP lawmakers he wouldn’t support an extension of the sunsetting authorities without major changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to multiple attendees.

The president has lashed out previously at FBI surveillance tactics. Trump most recently seized on a DOJ watchdog report that detailed failures by the agency in obtaining a FISA warrant to monitor Carter Page in late 2016, weeks after he departed the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser.

The president’s objections are an awkward obstacle in an already complex path to reauthorizing the provisions and became another example of how his rhetoric was interfering his own administration’s national security objectives.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where it could still face a filibuster.

On Wednesday, Lee said he would “use every option at my disposal to stop the House bill and to offer up amendments.”

“There are a lot of procedural tools at our disposal,” the Utah Republican said, adding he would call the president and urge him to veto the bill.

Paul likewise said that he is pushing for an amendment stating that “FISA warrants can’t be used on Americans and no information gathered in the FISA court can be used to convict an American.”

The objections could scuttle the bipartisan deal negotiated in part by Attorney General William Barr.

Barr told GOP senators that he could institute new oversight of FISA before Trump’s comments contradicted him. Barr, who met with House Republicans in McCarthy’s office earlier this week, also made a number of tweaks to get the administration’s support, which he announced earlier on Wednesday.

“The bill contains an array of new requirements and compliance provisions that will protect against abuse and misuse in the future while ensuring that this critical tool is available when appropriate to protect the safety of the American people,” Barr said in a statement.

Immediately following the House vote, senior GOP senators — including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.) and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (S.C.) — announced their support for the bipartisan bill.

“We strongly support this legislation and urge all of our Senate colleagues to join us,” they said in a joint statement.

Burr previously predicted that Trump would end up signing the bill, given the amount of GOP support.

“I don’t think he would have any objection,” he told POLITICO.

A senior administration official said the president “remains open” but wants to ensure that all voices are heard.

The measure closely resembles the bill Democrats weeks ago scrapped a vote on after Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) revealed she planned to introduce a series of amendments that enjoyed bipartisan support from progressives and libertarians.

The new legislation includes a series of provisions meant to temper Trump’s fiercest congressional allies, who have raged about FISA since shortly after the 2016 presidential election. It increases the criminal penalties for FISA misuse, including presenting false information to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The House bill would end the National Security Agency’s call detail records program. The effort, which allowed the agency to gather the data of Americans’ telephone calls and text messages with court approval, was deactivated last year following years of technical headaches. A recent watchdog report found the dormant program cost $100 million and led to just one investigation in four years.

It would also extend other surveillance tools, predominantly used by the FBI and created shortly after 9/11, for another three years.

House Progressive Caucus leaders Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) condemned the bill, saying it was “insufficient to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American public.”

Prior to the vote, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) admitted: “It is by no means a perfect bill.”

But, he said, “it includes important reforms.”

Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.

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