Speaker Johnson Allows Extension of Section 702 in NDAA

By Jerry McConway, updated on December 7, 2023

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has quickly found himself between a rock and a hard place.

Not only has Johnson lost some major allies in Congress, but he has also made some moves that are only going to create more hostility toward him from the MAGA faction of the GOP caucus.

Talking Points…

  • Losing support
  • The Johnson reversal
  • Analysis

Johnson Losing Allies in the House

The last few days must have felt like torture for new Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA).

Since he was elected Speaker, several longtime House members, including former Interim Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), announced they would not be running for re-election.

There was no hint at all that McHenry would not run for re-election until he made his announcement earlier this week, then the bombshell hit.

On Wednesday afternoon, former Speaker McCarthy (R-CA) announced that he would resign at the end of the year, leaving the GOP with a razor-thin majority at the start of next year.

While a Republican will likely fill McCarthy’s seat, the seat held by former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) will likely be filled by a Democrat in a special election, cutting the slight advantage that Republicans now have in the House.

The Johnson Reversal

With Johnson losing one of his strongest allies in the House, it was a bit of a surprise to see him backtrack on removing or reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Johnson has allowed Section 702 to be extended to April 19, which is not going to sit well with MAGA Republicans in the House, who are now gaining more and more power with the exit of McCarthy.

After vowing to do things differently, Johnson fell back on old habits by releasing a monster document, reportedly more than 3,000 pages, without giving members time to read it thoroughly before voting.

As we would expect, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was leading the charge against it, stating:

“It also would pass a CLEAN FISA extension. Not to mention, more of your taxpayer dollars sent to Ukraine to fund the proxy war. No member of the NDAA conference had any influence on this process. It was done in secret meetings with no input from conferees. Now, we’re supposed to just grin and take it with no say in the final bill. Is the GOP really going to fund abortion vacations and trans surgeries, fund the Ukraine war, all with a CLEAN FISA extension under Speaker Johnson?

“This was a total sell-out of conservative principles and a huge win for Democrats.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was also disappointed in the move, as he has been deeply involved in crafting legislation to reform Section 702, stating:

“I wish that wasn’t the case. I was encouraging people to just wait for both bills… the Intel is marking theirs up tomorrow. Ours is ready now.”

His fellow Ohioan, Rep. Warren Davidson, piled on…

One of the more vocal members of the MAGA contingent, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), also blasted Johnson on X…

Analysis

This was not only a disaster for Johnson but also for Trump, who made it clear that Johnson was his guy when the vote was ready.

Trump did not directly endorse Johnson, but he was the only candidate for Speaker that Trump outright named, largely because Johnson prepared the amicus brief for members of Congress to support the lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to challenge the election results in several key battleground states that Biden won in 2020.

Johnson, while supporting Trump, is also establishment, much like McCarthy, and this proves it.

I will go out on a limb here and say that in the next session, we very well may have another motion to vacate unless Johnson can work the backroom conferences and convince members that come April, Section 702 will be completely revamped.

To say he is on thin ice with the caucus would be a massive understatement, as I believe he is now on full life support.

About Jerry McConway

Jerry McConway is an independent political author and investigator who lives in Dallas, Texas. He has spent years building a strong following of readers who know that he will write what he believes is true, even if it means criticizing politicians his followers support. His readers have come to expect his integrity.

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