Surveillance Bill Yanked After Trump Tweets Veto Threat. Will It Be Changed for Better or Worse?

Weak reforms to the government’s power to secretly snoop on Americans wasn’t enough for the president. What happens next?


The House of Representatives on Wednesday did not vote on a surveillance bill after President Donald Trump tweeted his displeasure with the legislation. The fate of the bill is now up in the air, as are the fates of potential amendments to protect Americans from unwarranted surveillance by federal law enforcement.

The USA Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020 (H.R. 6172), had already passed the House once with two-thirds majority support from Democrats and Republicans. The original bill renewed surveillance authorities that expired in March, but it also included some modest reforms: the March version of the bill prohibited the FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) from mass-collecting and accessing our internet and phone metadata, and it expanded the ability of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court to bring in independent experts to advocate for the constitutional rights of Americans targeted for surveillance.

The bill then went to the Senate, where some toothier civil liberties amendments were proposed and blocked (most notably: one to forbid the collection of Americans' browser and internet search histories and one to entirely forbid the FISA Court from authorizing surveillance of Americans).

The Senate then voted the bill back to the House, where Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D–Calif) and Warren Davidson (R–Ohio) worked to draft their own version of one of the failed Senate amendments. But after Wednesday morning's Rules Committee hearing, it became apparent that the Lofgren-Davidson amendment would not be considered.

Then this tweet from President Donald Trump happened, and everything changed:

The shift in subsequent voting was rather remarkable to watch live. On Wednesday evening House members voted whether to accept the debate rules prior to a vote on the bill (the rules would accept the amendment that the Senate approved but not any new ones introduced in the House yesterday).

Suddenly, Republicans who had voted in favor of the bill back in March turned against it: 183 Republicans voted against the debate rules. Not one Republican voted in favor. Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) also voted against moving the bill to debate.

But because the Democrats control the House, there were still enough votes for the motion to pass. 228 Democrats voted to push the bill forward. But this was hardly a victory. Last time H.R. 6172 came up for a vote, 75 Democrats voted against it, primarily because they wanted more protections for Americans against secret surveillance. If Republicans all voted as a block against passing the bill, the Democrats wouldn't have enough votes to overcome it.

And so Wednesday night the final vote never happened. The House instead recessed. This morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D–Md.) announced the bill had been yanked:

The good news is that there is now an opportunity to strengthen the reforms. In the Senate, the amendment to prohibit federal law enforcement from collecting Americans' internet browsing history failed by a single vote, and only because four senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) were absent from voting. The House now has the opportunity to provide stronger protections and maybe reconsider the Lofgren-Davidson amendment or the even stronger amendment proposed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) and Steve Daines (R–Mont.).

On the other hand, negotiations could result in the bill being further weakened and watered down, despite Trump's stated preference for stronger protections. The Department of Justice has called for the veto of the bill precisely because it strengthens protections from unwarranted surveillance.

Davidson worried on Twitter this morning that despite what Trump says, negotiations could end with bipartisan proponents of the national security state getting what they want, while civil libertarians and privacy activists get even less.

There are reasons to be concerned about whether Trump actually wants stronger surveillance protections for all Americans. He rails regularly against FISA laws and the FISA Court because of the surveillance and investigation of his campaign staff in 2016, but when given the opportunity, he signed his name to a law that actually expanded the authority of the federal government to snoop on Americans.

Since signing that legislation in 2018, an investigation by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General showed that not only did the FBI omit important information from its warrant application to snoop on former Trump aide Carter Page, the FBI regularly screws up its FISA warrant applications targeting any American it investigates.

So the question here will be whether Trump will stick to his insistence that surveillance protections for all Americans be improved or whether he can be satisfied with reforms that are specifically focused on political surveillance. Rep. Paul Gosar (R–Ariz.) had submitted an amendment to require the attorney general to inform the leaders of the House and Senate when a person associated with a candidate for president is the target of FISA surveillance. In the Senate, Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) has attempted to restrict the ability of the FISA Court's independent amicus curiae advisor to advocate on behalf of Americans targeted for surveillance, unless the surveillance targets in need of defending are candidates for federal office or suspected of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

What McConnell and Gosar are doing can be read as currying favor with Trump or simply placating him, but either way, there's no reason to deprive all Americans of these protections—unless you're not actually serious about restraining the ability of the FBI to secretly snoop on Americans.

Privacy groups appear happy that the bill has been yanked. Daniel Schuman, policy director of left-leaning group Demand Progress, put out a statement this morning responding to the attempt by Democratic leaders to blame Republicans for the bill's stall, telling them they need to look within their own party as well.

"Democratic leadership is blaming Republicans on FISA, but Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi blocked pro-civil-liberties amendments and stymied reforms over the last year, including yesterday," Schuman said. "That's why she doesn't have the votes—she hasn't earned them."

NEXT: Trump's Executive Order on Twitter Is a Total Mess

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76 responses to “Surveillance Bill Yanked After Trump Tweets Veto Threat. Will It Be Changed for Better or Worse?

  1. Maybe my expectations are too high, but I find it really sad that an ostensibly libertarian publication is reduced to groveling for protections against searches of internet history. That is such a tepid, limpwristed reform at best.

    1. Well hell, if you're going to bash the mag for not dreaming of the impossible, why did you only wish for such a tepid improvement? Wish for the stars while your wishing someone else would wish for the stars!

      1. I honestly have no clue what point you are trying to make here.

        1. You complained the article didn't reach for the stars. I said your complaint didn't reach for the stars either.

          1. I think you think you're saying something important here... but you arent.

            1. So you're saying his criticism of the comment of the article didn't "reach for the stars."

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  2. I sometimes wonder what politics would be like if it were conducted blind -- if each politician were kept isolated from all other politicians and actually had to think for themselves. Of course, then lobbyists would have even more power than today, ad it's all a pipe dream to start with, but these critters are worse sheep than the public.

    1. I sometimes wonder what politics would be like if it were conducted blind — if each politician were kept isolated from all other politicians and actually had to think for themselves. about their constituents. (The folks who actually hired them to do a job).

      1. (The folks who actually hired them to do a job).

        ABC did acknowledge the lobbyists.

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      2. I don't want representatives actually trying to discern what their constituents want. I want them to campaign on how they would vote, let the voters choose, and then leave the rep alone to think for himself, presumably in the same vein he campaigned as. If reps try to guess what their constituents want, they will toss ad turn like a leaf in the wind, because polls are fickle.

        1. So you believe politicians would campaign honestly? Why? Only a small percentage of voters even bother reading headlines so how would a politician stating how they would vote even change things? How many topics do you expect them to list to publish how they would vote? Your systemic preference would change nothing.

          1. Yep. It's like how Hilary let the cat out of the bag when she said that she has "private beliefs" and "public beliefs". Public beliefs is a euphemism for saying the things these jackasses want to hear so that the vote to make me their god. Then I can do whatever the fuck I want while the media tells them what a great job I'm doing representing them.

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    2. Why do you want to poke out Pelosi's eyes? I mean...I'll do it for the children...But I am just asking why.

      1. A genie grants a Russian one wish, but the genie says he will give the Russian's neighbor double of whatever he asks for. The Russian thinks for a moment and then asks to be blinded in one eye.

        1. I'll have a Coke.

  3. Name all the times you can think of off the top of your head where legislation got yanked and changed for the better before being reintroduced. Go!

    1. You gotta pass the bill to find out what’s in it.

      1. So Deal or No Deal is actually a TV adaption of American governance? Like a C-Span without the filler, if you will.

    2. I don't understand why the threat of a veto is enough to get a bill pulled. If you actually believe in your proposal, put it to the vote and put the onus on the president. This refusal to risk taking a loss represents a strange sort of cowardice of the kind that drives prosecutors to press for plea bargains merely to pad their win columns.

      1. Putting votes on record is a risky thing. They would never do it without a sure payoff.

  4. >>The shift in subsequent voting was rather remarkable to watch live.

    the L.A. news used to show the lemmings going over the cliff

  5. Surveillance Bill Yanked After Trump Tweets Veto Threat.

    Did Twitter fact-check this threat?

  6. Peter Strzok is a real American hero (along with others). If it weren't for his efforts re-authorization would have sailed through Congress.

    But seriously this guy did us all a huge favor by being such a slimy piece of shit. Also good work Trump, fight back against this and for godsakes please just listen to Rand Paul during this debate; lose Lindsey Graham's number.

  7. There's an old saying about how if you try to shoot the Devil in the back, you better not miss, and that's more or less the lesson on display here.

    If Hillary Clinton had won, they FBI would still have whatever they want, carte blanche .

    They tried to stab Trump in the back but missed, and now they want the president to renew their license to carry knives?!


    How fucking stupid are they to even ask?

  8. Trump retweets video declaring 'the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat'

    If you support Trump, you are a fascist. Full stop. Debate is now over.

    "Libertarians" coming here to justify the most powerful man in the world advocating violence against Americans in 3, 2, 1...

    1. Rather than assume everything the press claims is just as you say it is, I think I'll ignore it, again, because I've heard the cries of wolf so many times now, it's just not worth the bother anymore.

      1. Yeah this is like how they keep repeating that he called all illegal immigrants rapists. he did not say that. But why bother reading the facts?

        1. Or how he said there were good people on both sides at Charlottesville, but if you listen to the entire quote without editing, he is clearly saying that there are good people on both sides of the debate about removing confederate war statues?

        2. I need it to come from a credible critic to bother to looking anymore, and credibility requires critics to give their subjects credit when credit is due.

          Orwell didn't have credibility because he was from the John Birch Society. Orwell had credibility because he was a socialist criticizing Stalin and communism--back when the other useful idiots were pretending that because they liked socialism they had to pretend everything and everyone who did anything in socialism's name was a good.

          Christopher Hitchens was credible (long before 9/11 or Iraq were issues) because he was someone on the left who was willing to excoriate the Clintons for the way they treated Bill Clinton's female accusers and the way Bill Clinton executed what amounted to a functionally retarded man--just to prove that he was tough on crime.

          Where are the credible leftist journalists today?

          Here's Masha Gessen, who was forced to flee Russia for fear that the Putin regime was about to lash out at her for her criticism by snatching her children on the pretense that they were being raised in a lesbian home. She's excoriating the left and the press for the ridiculousness of their conspiracy theories--back in March of 2017, long before what we know about the Mueller probe and its findings.

          I'm trying to think of another credible critic of Trump on the left, and I'm pulling a blank. I basically go by my own criticisms. President Trump is wrong on trade (especially on trade with China), and he's wrong on his goals for immigration. He's right about Iran, pulling out of Afghanistan, staying out of Syria, slashing entitlement spending in the form of Medicaid, he's right on FISA, he was right to try to suspend payroll taxes rather than a round of stimulus, . . .

          He's wrong on a number of issues, but as the Democrats become increasingly authoritarian and socialist, I am becoming increasingly supportive of President Trump despite his flaws--because he's just about the only thing in the government standing between us and them.

          1. That's a whole lot of pseudo intellectual bullshit to justify your favorite fascist calling for violence against Americans. You should really go check on your favorite cult leader's tweets. He's advocating violence and being as divisive as is possible. Not great.

            But do go on about enlightenment values and how Trump is the second coming of Thomas Aquinas or some other tortured nonsensical argument in a vain attempt to appear an intellectual.

            1. As you ignore all the other calls to violence elsewhere on twitter. Good job neutral mikey.

              1. Are the other threats from the president?

                Then shut the fuck up, brown shirt.

      2. the leader of the group Couy Griffin declares "the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat." Griffin then explains he doesn't mean it "in the physical sense," but rather "in the political sense" because "the Democrat policy and agenda is anti-American right now."

        That is directly from DoL's link. The pathetic simpleton didn't even bother to click through.

        1. Funny that you left this part out, Chuck the disgusting fascist:

          The Daily Beast asked Griffin to clarify his "dead Democrat" comment in an interview after the Tuesday rally, but he only repeated the statement and suggested that top Democrats enforcing social distancing will "get to pick your poison: you either go before a firing squad, or you get the end of the rope."

          1. Yes, I left out the part where the leftist latched onto something that wasn't in the video that was linked by Trump.

            I assume your only objection to the statement is as to who gets lined up in front of the wall, correct?

          2. Lol. Now posting daily beast as the authority on your opinion. Fucking hilarious.

            1. The man's own words.

              The president just endorsed violence against americans, and you have nothing to say about it.

              You are scum.

        2. DOLs head hurts after just the headline. He is caught doing this shit constantly.

    2. To be fair, every major politician in both parties is a fascist. Full stop.

      1. Any examples of Democrat presidents calling for the death of Republicans?

        bOtH sIdEs

        1. Cute how you scoped your requirements like a biased retard.

          But here you go.

          Favorite: "“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”"

          You're a fucking unemployed moron.

        2. Here is AG holder.

          “”It is time for us, as Democrats, to be as tough as they are, to be as dedicated as they are, to be as committed as they are. Michelle always says — I love her; she and my wife are like, really tight, which always scares me and Barack — but Michelle always says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. When they go low, we kick ’em.” To which the audience enthusiastically chanted, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

        3. Auntie maxine.

          "If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere."

          Do I need to continue this or do you realize how fucking ignorant you are?

          1. No presidents? Your first source conflates an Obama quote, "you need to argue and get in their face." as a death threat. Jesus fucking christ, you are disingenuous and dumb.

    3. DoL sucks progressive authoritarian balls. Go ahead and debate, DoL, because by doing so you will reveal the truth.

      Now go and clean the cum off your mask.

      1. "DoL sucks progressive authoritarian balls."

        Says the idiot with 0 self awareness who is defending a call to violence against Americans.

        1. Says the idiot with 0 self awareness who is defending a call to violence against Americans.

          Says the idiot with 0 self awareness who has already defended actual violence against Americans in the name of 'the public health'.

          Fuck off, slaver.

          1. Point to me defending violence against americans. You can't do it.

            But you still are here, defending the most powerful man in the world from criticism after he sends a death threat to americans.

            Fucking examine yourself.

    4. Any update on human life expectency, DOL? Or are you still working out the numbers?

      1. If DoL is not Jeffy, I would be amazed. The propensity to drop in uninvited, shit his pants, and then whine about the smell in the room is too much of a coincidence.

        Tony gives off a vibe that he is a masochist that fundamentally needs to be abused. Hihn is bat-shit crazy. Jeffy is like a retarded kid that keeps trying to headbutt you. You have to keep pushing him down, but end up feeling ashamed for having done so.

        1. The only people uninvited around here are full on fascist cult members pretending to be libertarian because "deregulation".

          The head of the fucking federal government just advocated violence against americans based on the way they vote. And you are upset when people don't like that. You are not libertarian. You are a fascist.

    5. The debate is never over unless a facist shuts down the debate or everyone agrees (and good luck with that). As CP points out the man continued on to say he's not advocating for violence. Since not everyone agrees, I can only assume you are the facist.

      And god this shits does the exact opposite of its intended purpose. I keep getting pushed more towards Trump because of this kina of junior high bs logic. You can criticize Trump for a multitude of things without resorting to baseless accusations.

      1. You should check it out yourself. The man clarifies on follow up questions that he does indeed want dead Democrats. The president really did endorse this position. You really are defending an actual fascist.

        1. I watched the entire video. Found it very unpersuasive.

        2. You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

    6. You probably believe that Trump told people to inject Bleach.

      1. He mused about it, as if it were an idea worth considering.

        I bet you are in cult.

        1. You should clean your mask with bleach, that stain from all the leftist media cum you are gargling is starting to spread.

          1. You really have nothing at all, do you?

            Pathetic. You guys can't even put up a decent conspiracy theory to make it all go away.

    7. You missed the follow on "in a political sense." Because you're dishonest or retarded?

      1. You guys always jump on the tiny disclaimer afterwards like it absolves everything.

        You miss the part when he clarified that he did indeed want dead democrats?

        You miss the part where the most powerful man in the world sent this message to his millions of followers? You think that subtlety was the point? If so, you are fucking dumb.

    8. advocating violence against Americans

      They aren't Americans. They are Communists.

  9. Wow, Reasons really disappointed that they were wrong and commenters were right when it came to Trump and FISA. At some point ya'll are just going to have to accept that the man you hate is doing more for your stated policy preferences than any one of the people you like.

    1. Or simplified.

      Maybe your the asshole, Reason.

      1. We've heard little or nothing about President Trump's attempts to slash Medicaid eligibility through work requirements, get the United States out of Afghanistan, and other efforts work towards clearly libertarian goals.

        On foreign policy issues, they actually framed President Trump's decision to pull American troops out of harm's way in Syria as if abandoning the Kurds should be the primary consideration in whether or not we get into another quagmire.

        Their position isn't really libertarian anymore. It's just anti-Trump.

    2. Trump is not at all libertarian in his rhetoric or political philosophy (to the extent that one can discern a political philosophy).

      But in terms of tangible outcomes, he is the most libertarian President in my lifetime.

      1. +100

  10. The bigger, more public and higher-profile this fight is, the better.

  11. I am guessing the Surveillance Bill will be worse, as it seem spying on US citizens is the one thing the Democrats and Republicans can agree on. I do emphasize the word "citizens", as I am sure illegals, (oops excuse me), undocumented aliens will be exempted from such intrusive spying as at least their constitutional rights would be violated.

  12. One of the things about this current president is that, for a whole lot of issues, he's "been there done that bought the tee shirt, wore it out and doesn't want another one".

    The level of illegal invasive spying done on this one man, and that solely for the purpose of destroying him, makes this proposed bill come comes far closer to home than it would for any of the presidents I can think of at least since Teddy Roseveldt. Truno HAS been seriously burned by the outrageous ease with which unauthorised and illegitimate spying was able to be done under colour of law.

    If that had been ME in his shoes, and I had the tenth ofhis authority, I'd have been having my DoJ personnel writing felony indictments as fast as they could. Heads would rol, and not soo much as "payback" for MY harm, but to teach ALL government "SERVANTS" that those tools are not to be used as weapons in their gang warfare but as tools to maintain our security as a nation.

    1. Heads would rol,

      Were you to threaten what you say you would, the only head rolling would be on the trunk lid of a 63 Lincoln Convertible heading for an underpass.


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  14. Fact: his was hardly a victory. Last time H.R. 6172 came up for a vote, 75 Democrats voted against it, primarily because they wanted more protections for Americans against secret surveillance. waco electricians

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