A Paul-Massie alliance fight FISA's renewal. They're running out of time

David Catanese, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul formed a noisy alliance with Rep. Thomas Massie this week that scrambled Congress’ plans to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act without additional privacy protections for Americans and threatened the six-month tenure of the Republican speaker of the House.

The libertarian duo scored a substantive victory in the House this week Wednesday when the chamber passed legislation that would force federal agencies to obtain a court order to buy the online data of U.S. citizens from service providers.

Massie, R-Ky., was joined by Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., in supporting the “Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act” while Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., opposed the restriction, voting “no” without an explanation.

The total vote muddled usual party lines, tallying 219-199 with 1 voting “resent.”

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy heaped praise on Paul, saying, “Today, the good guys won.”

Then came a new day and a new body co-led by Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, who belittled “chicken littles on the left” who decried the government’s authority to spy.

“The reality is, we’re out of time,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, a proponent of swift reauthorization of FISA’s Section 702, the program that provides 60% of the intelligence included in the president’s daily briefing.

FISA was designed to provide more tools to intelligence officers to eavesdrop on foreigners. But the wide net inevitably captures Americans who may be unwittingly communicating with someone being surveilled.


When House Speaker Mike Johnson broke a tie vote in the House to kill the inclusion of a warrant in FISA’s reauthorization, it triggered Paul to take the unlikely step to call for the ouster of a leader of his party from the lower chamber, endorsing Massie’s announcement he would co-sponsor a motion to vacate.

“Speaker Johnson and the uniparty are united behind their laundry list of bad ideas. From borrowing $95 billion from China to send it to other countries to killing a FISA warrant requirement – they’re ticking all the boxes to put America last,” Paul said.

Paul said he would force the Senate debate amendments to FISA, but it was unclear how many votes would be allowed as debate continued on the floor into Thursday evening.

It was Massie who helped reorient the debate last week during his aggressive probe of the law during a House Rules Committee hearing.

“Massie’s questioning in Rules (Committee) of (Rep. Mike) Turner is brilliant and he deserves a lot of recognition for what he did there, because he was strong, he hit the points he needed to hit and really got Turner on the ropes at times,” said Jason Pye, a senior policy adviser to Freedomworks, a libertarian-leaning advocacy group in Washington.

But it appears unlikely Paul will have the same effect in the Senate, which voted 67-32 on Thursday afternoon to proceed with the bill on the floor. Paul joined 17 Republicans, 13 Democrats and independent Bernie Sanders in opposing expediting consideration of the controversial spy law.


©2024 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus