Mike Johnson dealt a blow as pro-Trump Republicans tank vote on FISA spying program

 April 11, 2024

A small group of House conservatives blocked the renewal of a controversial spying program on Wednesday, in a victory for President Trump that put him at odds with his handpicked House Speaker, Mike Johnson (R-LA).

19 Republicans joined all Democrats to block a procedural vote on Section 702 of the FISA Act after President Trump urged Republicans to "kill" FISA. The vote was 193-228.

Despite his alignment with Trump on many issues, Johnson expressed disappointment with Wednesday's vote.

"We will regroup and formulate another plan," Johnson told reporters. "We cannot allow Section 702 of FISA to expire. It's too important to national security. I think most of the members understand that."

Mike Johnson dealt a blow

The intelligence community or "deep state" has called FISA a critical national defense tool, but some Trump-supporting Republicans oppose renewing it without major reforms given its role in the surveillance of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

“Kill FISA,” Trump wrote on social media. "It was illegally used against me, and many others. They spied on my campaign.”

Section 702 of FISA is particularly controversial because it can be used to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans who are in communication with non-citizen FISA targets abroad.

With Trump egging them on, 19 House Republicans in the party's right flank moved to block Johnson's procedural vote.

All Democrats voted against Johnson, according to party tradition.

"It's never helpful for the majority party to take down its own rule," Johnson grumbled.

Speaker to meet with Trump

Johnson was elected Speaker with backing from Trump last year after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted in an intraparty rebellion.

Since taking over the job, Johnson has faced regular backlash from his right over his failure to meaningfully advance a conservative agenda. The Speaker has often defended himself by pointing to his limited bargaining power in the House, where Republicans have a narrow, and shrinking, majority.

But he continues to face pressure from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), who has threatened to push for Johnson's firing if he moves on aid to Ukraine, which he is likely to do soon.

“Mike Johnson has unfortunately not lived up to a single one of his self-imposed tenets,” Greene wrote in a letter to Republican colleagues this week.

“He is throwing our own razor-thin majority into chaos by not serving his own GOP conference that elected him,” she added.

Despite breaking with Trump on FISA, Johnson will travel to Mar-A-Lago on Friday to discuss election integrity.

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