House Leaders Sideline Anti-NSA Lawmakers

Through a procedural trick, some of the most vocal critics of mass surveillance are not going to get to review a new reform bill.

Activists protest the surveillance of U.S. citizens by the NSA outside the Justice Department where President Barack Obama gave a major speech on reforming the NSA January 17, 2014.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
March 26, 2014, 2:40 p.m.

Some of the most vo­cal crit­ics of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency in Con­gress be­lieve they are be­ing in­ten­tion­ally cut out of a loom­ing de­bate on how to re­form the agency’s pro­gram that col­lects bulk tele­phone data.

The House par­lia­ment­ari­an on Wed­nes­day gave primary jur­is­dic­tion of a newly in­tro­duced bill that would re­pur­pose much of the NSA pro­gram to the cham­ber’s In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee in­stead of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, leav­ing mem­bers and aides of the lat­ter group to cry foul play.

Mat­ters in­volving the over­sight of the in­tel­li­gence com­munity’s broad leg­al au­thor­ity have al­ways fallen to the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, a staffer said, adding that he could find no in­stance since the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that his com­mit­tee did not get first claim on such le­gis­la­tion.

“Many of our mem­bers are pretty out­raged,” the staffer said. “They’re try­ing to un­der­mine this com­mit­tee’s clear jur­is­dic­tion, as the de­bate we’re hav­ing is on civil liber­ties and con­sti­tu­tion­al rights.” The man­euver, he said, puts NSA re­form in “the hands of its biggest cheer­lead­ers.”

One of those out­raged Ju­di­ciary mem­bers is Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, who quickly is­sued a state­ment say­ing he was “deeply con­cerned that today, for what ap­pears to be the first time ever, a FISA re­form bill has been sent first to the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.”

Nadler ad­ded: “The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee must be the primary Com­mit­tee at the cen­ter of this re­form.”

The bill in ques­tion was in­tro­duced on Tues­day by Reps. Mike Ro­gers, chair of the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and Dutch Rup­pers­ber­ger, that pan­el’s top Demo­crat. Both, es­pe­cially Ro­gers, have been adam­ant de­fend­ers of NSA sur­veil­lance since Ed­ward Snowden’s leaks began last June.

But the two have changed their tune fol­low­ing the un­veil­ing of their bill, which came on the heels of a New York Times re­port that Pres­id­ent Obama was en­dors­ing a pro­pos­al that would keep tele­phone data in the hands of phone com­pan­ies and re­quire court ap­prov­al pri­or to every search of a tar­geted phone num­ber.

The bill ad­heres closely to a set of re­forms backed by Pres­id­ent Obama, but would al­low the NSA to force com­pan­ies to turn over par­tic­u­lar re­cords — or­ders the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court would re­view after the fact.

The co­ales­cing around a gen­er­al frame­work of re­form — and Wed­nes­day’s pro­ced­ur­al coup — does not bode well for the USA Free­dom Act, which was in­tro­duced last year by Rep. Jim Sensen­bren­ner. The meas­ure from the Wis­con­sin Re­pub­lic­an and au­thor of the post-9/11 Pat­ri­ot Act, who sits on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee and is a former chair of the pan­el, would re­quire a stronger bur­den of proof for data searches and lim­it some of the NSA’s oth­er pro­grams, in­clud­ing sur­veil­lance of over­seas In­ter­net traffic.

The Free­dom Act, which has more than 140 co­spon­sors but has seen little pro­gress lately, had been re­ferred to Ju­di­ciary, lead­ing staffers there to ex­pect the same would be done for Ro­gers’s FISA Trans­par­ency and Mod­ern­iz­a­tion Act. Now at least two Ju­di­ciary aides have ex­pressed con­cern that the com­mit­tee could be cut out of the re­view pro­cess en­tirely, as Ro­gers and Rup­pers­ber­ger may at­tempt to bum-rush their bill to the House floor.

House Par­lia­ment­ari­an Tom Wick­ham and a rep­res­ent­at­ive for Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee also did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

What We're Following See More »
ANOTHER NUCLEAR OPTION?
Byrd Rule Could Trip Up Health Legislation
22 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”

Source:
ONE WEEK
Senate Votes To Fund Government
1 days ago
BREAKING
ON TO SENATE
House Passes Spending Bill
1 days ago
BREAKING

The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.

PRESIDENT CALLS MEDICAID FUNDS A “BAILOUT”
Puerto Rico Another Sticking Point in Budget Talks
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."

Source:
POTENTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN?
Democrats Threaten Spending Bill Over Obamacare
2 days ago
BREAKING

Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login