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House passes modified surveillance bill after it failed earlier this week

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The House on Friday passed a modified surveillance bill, just two days after an earlier version failed to advance in a public rebuke to GOP leadership.

The bill, which reauthorizes the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, also needs to pass the Senate ahead of an April 19 deadline.

The passage of the legislation is a win for House Speaker Mike Johnson – after GOP leadership’s defeat on the floor just two days ago – and comes as the Louisiana Republican faces direct challenges to his leadership. GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia filed a resolution last month that could force a vote to remove Johnson from the speakership, and Greene has been citing that threat to escalate pressure on Johnson over issues such as changes to the FISA reauthorization and aid to Ukraine.

Greene was seen on the House floor speaking to Johnson, who later told reporters the two spoke about “all sorts of things.”

“Marjorie and I agree on our conservative philosophy,” Johnson said. “We just have different ideas sometimes on strategy. The important part of governing in a time of divided government like we have is communication with members and understanding the thought process behind it, that they have a say in it.”

The final vote was 273-147 with 147 Republicans and 126 Democrats voting in favor of the reauthorization, and 59 Republicans and 88 Democrats voting against it.

The new version of the FISA bill would be a two-year reauthorization instead of five years, meaning that if former President Donald Trump won the presidential election this year, the legislation would be up in time for Trump to overhaul FISA laws next time around. That change helped appease the conservative House members who originally opposed the bill, sinking it Wednesday.

Johnson organized a classified reading room off the House floor for members to view classified information ahead of Friday’s vote, according to a GOP leadership aide.

Johnson is also scheduled to meet with Trump in Florida later Friday.

As a rank-and-file member of the House, Johnson was opposed to the reauthorization of section 702 of FISA, explaining that only after receiving classified briefings did he gain a “different perspective.”

“When I was a member of (the House Judiciary Committee) I saw the abuses of the FBI, the terrible abuses over and over and over… and then when I became speaker I went to the SCIF and got the confidential briefing on sort of the other perspective on that to understand the necessity of section 702 of FISA and how important it is for national security,” the Louisiana Republican said earlier this week. “And it gave me a different perspective.”

“That’s part of the process, you have to be fully informed,” he added.

White House National Security communications adviser John Kirby reiterated the White House’s support for the reauthorization ahead of the final House floor vote expected later Friday.

“We strongly support the bipartisan effort here to get … 702 reauthorized and we even support – not all – but we support a lot of the reforms that are being considered,” Kirby told reporters Friday.

While Kirby would not say how a failure to reauthorize FISA or Section 702 would impact current surveillance efforts with regard to Iran, he did note the intelligence successes it has contributed to, calling it “critical for all threats.”

In one recent instance, an intelligence official told CNN, the CIA discovered through 702 collected data that a shipment of Chinese-origin chemicals used to produce fentanyl pills was on its way to the United States. The CIA, which had been investigating a cartel’s international supply chain, had queried 702 data for known international brokers with links to cartels and discovered the incoming shipment. It was then able to disrupt the shipment, the official said, which carried “enough precursor chemicals to produce millions of fentanyl pills.”

“The key point in this use case was that time was of the essence here, because CIA’s discovery of that info was just 48 hours ahead of the incoming shipment that was ultimately disrupted,” the official said.

The most dramatic moment of Friday’s FISA vote series centered around a controversial bipartisan amendment that would have required the FBI to get a search warrant before combing through the collected foreign intelligence data for references to US citizens.

Shared concerns that the amendment would seriously undermine the value of surveillance authorities granted in Section 702, the Biden administration and Republican national security hawks launched a last-ditch lobbying campaign to defeat it.

A mad scramble ensued.

According to a source familiar with the matter, senior national security officials, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, personally called members of Congress in the immediate lead-up to Friday’s vote and urged them to oppose the amendment, which was co-sponsored by GOP Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona.

The Biden administration also distributed a memo prior to Friday’s vote characterizing the Biggs amendment as a “threat to national security” and a “reckless policy choice” in an effort to sway undecided members, according to a copy obtained by CNN.

“The Biggs amendment is the most damaging possible version of a warrant requirement; it effectively prohibits US person queries. The exceptions are so narrow we’ll never be able to use them, not even to thwart a terrorist attack when we have the intel in our holdings,” a senior national security official told CNN ahead of the vote.

“We know that hostile nation state adversaries are watching the 702 debate closely. There is no doubt that they are hoping the US intelligence agencies lose this key capability,” the official added.

When the gavel fell, the amendment vote tally was 212-212: a rarely seen one-vote failure as tie votes do not advance in the House. Ultimately, 86 Republicans voted against the amendment.

In a sign of Johnson’s leadership troubles continuing, conservative hardliners that lost the fight for the amendment blamed the speaker for its defeat ahead of his high-stakes appearance with Trump.

“We’re very disappointed that when we sent Mike Johnson away from the Judiciary Committee, he departed from some of the views that he held deeply,” GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said. “We made Mike Johnson speaker so that the speakership would be more like Mike Johnson, not so that Mike Johnson would be more like the speakership.”

Greene also criticized Johnson over the amendment’s failing.

“Speaker Johnson was the final vote to KILL the amendment which would stop the warrantless surveillance of Americans. What is the difference between Speaker Johnson and Speaker Nancy Pelosi?” she wrote on X. “I think that’s gonna tell a lot of people what I have been saying.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Annie Grayer, Katie Bo Lillis and Aileen Graef contributed to this report.

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