Rand Paul blasts Johnson for going against FISA amendment: He 'hasn't held his ground'

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went after Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Sunday for forcing a tie vote against an amendment to a controversial spy bill, upsetting some of the most conservative Republicans.

Conservatives and progressives teamed up to demand an amendment the for reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) last week, which would have required a warrant for government spying on Americans. The amendment vote came to a tie after Johnson’s vote against it, tanking the change.

“Speaker Johnson was incredibly wrong,” Paul said in a “Fox News Sunday” interview. “He broke the tie. He voted with the Democrats. Here we have the leader of the Republicans in the House votes with the Democrats against a warrant requirement.”

“We also have Speaker Johnson voting for the spending package once again with a majority of the Democrats,” he continued. “As I see it now, I’m not so sure there’s a difference between Mike Johnson being in charge and the Democrats being in charge.”

The FISA amendment vote was bipartisan, with 86 Republicans — including Johnson — and 126 Democrats voting against it. Paul, a libertarian-minded conservative, was a major Senate backer of the FISA amendment.

Despite an endorsement from former President Trump over the weekend, the vote infuriated the most conservative members of Congress and added to rising dissent against Johnson. 

Paul called on Johnson to do more to win his confidence.

“Johnson hasn’t held his ground,” Paul said. “He has power. He has a majority. Use the power of the purse. Speaker Johnson, do something to make us think you are different than the Democrats. But so far I don’t see a lot of difference.”

After the vote Friday, some FISA amendment hard-liners said they’re ready to travel to GOP districts to campaign against those who tanked the amendment.

“Every one of these members who voted against a warrant requirement, they are the deciding vote. They own it,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said after the vote. “And some of them may see me showing up in their districts very soon to campaign against them and to stand for the Constitution.”

The broader FISA package passed the House easily after the amendment failed. As a final act of protest, dissenters delayed the bill’s movement to the House until this week.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who supported the amendment, called on voters to pressure their lawmakers to back the warrant provision in a Senate version of the bill.

“This is not off of the House floor, so everybody’s got to go home and answer their constituents over the next 72 hours about why they are siding with the intelligence agencies and the deep state and the swamp over the rights and the liberties of the American people,” Roy said.

“That was the choice today,” he continued. “And every single person in this body, no matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, voted against an amendment to protect Americans, to protect them with a warrant, and they’ve got to answer to it.”

Johnson had previously been critical of FISA Section 702 surveillance powers, but recently reversed positions since taking over the Speakership. The provision allows U.S. intelligence agencies to collect communications of foreign nationals under investigation, including communications with Americans.

“When I was a member of Judiciary, I saw all of the abuses of the FBI — there were terrible abuses, over and over and over,” Johnson told reporters last week. “And then when I became Speaker, I … got the confidential briefing from sort of the other perspective on that, to understand the necessity of Section 702 of FISA and how important it is for national security.”

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