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Demand Progress Condemns House Leadership for Undermining Privacy, Sending H.R.6172 to Conference

Speaker Pelosi refused to allow a vote on protecting internet history and now will undermine privacy in conference.

WASHINGTON - After failing to ram through the domestic surveillance reauth bill—the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act -- last night, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy collaborated to punt the legislation out of the House and into a conference committee, which leadership will use to undermine privacy protections that has the support of a majority in both chambers.

Over 80 organizations called on House leaders to allow a vote on the Daines-Wyden amendment, which has clear, overwhelming support in both chambers. After refusing to allow a vote on protecting internet activity, leadership pulled the bill entirely until today's last minute legislative maneuver.

The following statement can be attributed to Sean Vitka, senior policy counsel at Demand Progress:

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"This outrageous move by Speaker Pelosi does nothing but endanger protections specifically designed to protect religious groups and the press. That's exactly what's at stake here, and it's all to prevent Representatives from having any chance to strengthen the weak privacy protections in this bill. Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff have done everything in their power to ensure the House cannot vote on the warrantless surveillance of Americans' internet activity, and worse, to ensure Congress doesn't know what it's reauthorizing." 

This bizarre move, which undercuts clear and broadly supported Democratic priorities, comes after a series of extraordinary efforts by House leadership to undermine privacy protections in both chambers. Specifically:

  • The House Judiciary Committee's February 26th markup of the bill was unexpectedly canceled to prevent amendments.
  • The day Intelligence Chairman Schiff cosponsored the bill, March 10, a provision was added to the bill that would give Attorney General Barr the sole responsibility to approve an investigation into Joe Biden or reject an investigation into Donald Trump (Section 203). The same day, House leadership issued a closed rule, prohibiting the offering of any amendments on the floor.
  • Senator Carper, one of only 10 Senate Democrats to oppose the Daines-Wyden amendment, claimed that he voted no because House leaders told him that it would kill FISA entirely.
  • On Tuesday, despite the apparent success of Reps. Lofgren and Davidson to draw the same bright line around internet activity as Daines-Wyden, Chairman Schiff made clear he understood the amendment would not, in fact, protect browsing and search history of people in the United States.
  • After Chairman Schiff's interpretation of the amendment came to light, Senator Wyden announced opposition to the negotiated amendment: "It is now clear that there is no agreement with the House Intelligence Committee to enact true protections for Americans’ rights against dragnet collection of online activity, which is why I must oppose this amendment, along with the underlying bill, and urge the House to vote on the original Wyden-Daines amendment.
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Demand Progress works to win progressive policy changes for ordinary people through organizing, lobbying, and elections in the United States.

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