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Johnson forced to delay House vote on controversial surveillance tool after GOP mutiny threats

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., was forced to backpedal on holding a House vote on renewing and revising a key surveillance tool of the U.S. government after a bloc of GOP lawmakers threatened a mutiny, Fox News Digital has learned.

The House Rules Committee had been partially through considering a bill to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) when Johnson’s spokesperson announced that a planned House-wide vote would not happen this week as expected.

The Rules panel, which had to approve the bill before it hit the House floor, abruptly called off the rest of its session with no explanation.

But four sources told Fox News Digital that all progress on the FISA bill would be postponed until a later date because members of the House Intelligence Committee threatened to tank a procedural vote to effectively kill the legislation.

‘Instead of playing the game through Rules and regular order, Intel decided to take their ball and go home, walking away from the negotiated text and amendment plan without any understanding of why,’ one source said.

Three more sources close to the Intelligence Committee challenged that narrative to Fox News Digital, saying the bill text was changed over the weekend without their consent or the consent of the House Judiciary Committee, which also worked on the bill.

They said the issue was primarily with an amendment offered by Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus who does not sit on either committee.

One of those two sources said Davidson’s amendment was not ‘germane’ to the compromise text, meaning it was ineligible for consideration because it was not deemed relevant to the bill – until the text was allegedly altered over the weekend.

‘Someone in leadership staff ended up drafting text that got inserted into the base text over the weekend, so they basically airdropped … this one paragraph into the base text that now makes that amendment germane,’ that source said. ‘The amendment totally screws FISA, the text that was added totally screws FISA in terms of its ability to be a national security tool.’

That source said taking a chance on whether Davidson’s amendment will pass was like ‘playing Russian roulette.’

Section 702 has been both credited with preventing terror attacks on U.S. soil and accused of being a vehicle for spying on U.S. citizens.

It lets the government keep tabs on specific foreign nationals outside the country without first obtaining a warrant to do so, even if the party on the other side of those communications is an American on U.S. soil.

Davidson’s proposed amendment would have forced feds acting within FISA to seek a warrant before trying to obtain third-party-owned communications and location data of a U.S. citizen.

The bill intended to come to the floor this week was the product of monthslong talks between the Judiciary and Intelligence panels. Both sides agreed that Section 702 needs to be reformed, and a task force of seven lawmakers was created to hash out the compromise, two sources said.

Judiciary members, along with a coalition of GOP hard-liners and progressives, saw FISA as a tool abused to spy on Americans and sought severe restrictions. Intelligence Committee members argued their restrictions would have rendered it ineffective as a tool to stop terror attacks.

Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., who is on Intelligence, agreed FISA needs reforms and defended his panel’s work on the matter but insisted the warrant aspect could hinder efforts to prevent threats to Americans.

He said the committee’s proposed emphasis on more transparency and oversight of the FISA court would ‘help remedy these problems and puts us on the best path forward to protect national security, and secondly, to hold the FBI accountable.’

LaHood also pointed to a letter signed by Trump-era national security officials affirming support for his committee’s version of the bill.

‘This was airdropped in there,’ the second source close to the Intelligence Committee said of text related to Davidson’s amendment. ‘This was not something that the seven members of the working group had ever digested, ever looked at. So really, it was disingenuous to think that that would be a part of that. And essentially, [House GOP leadership] agreed.’

That source said Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., were ‘surprised’ to hear that the legislative text was altered.

The third source said, ‘What they’re asking for is a secondary requirement, a warrant which would be a warrant for the query of a database of already lawfully collected data … that would be the equivalent of a police officer needing a warrant before running a license plate.’

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., an ally of Davidson’s who supported his warrant amendment, hit back at the Intelligence Committee’s reform efforts, saying, ‘Intel didn’t want the Judiciary [amendments]. See, the Judiciary Committee is the committee of jurisdiction. That’s where it should’ve gone.’

But the third source close to the Intelligence Committee said those on the panel ‘are the ones that see the threats to our nation up close and personal every day.’

It’s not immediately clear when House GOP leaders plan to bring the bill back up. House leadership has until April 19 before Section 702 expires.

Johnson’s and Davidson’s offices did not immediately provide comment.

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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