By: Rebecca Beitsch and Mychael Schnell

A group of House Republicans on Wednesday tanked a procedural vote to begin debate on a bill to reauthorize the nation’s warrantless surveillance powers, leaving the chamber scrambling on how to address the important spy tool before it expires next week.

Nineteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting against a rule for legislation to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), blocking the measure from advancing 193-228.

The move comes after former President Trump on Wednesday urged Republicans to “KILL FISA” — throwing a wrench in an already contentious debate.

The failed vote marks yet another instance of members of the GOP tanking what is typically a routine party-line vote to protest legislation put forward by leadership.

Led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and other MAGA-aligned conservatives, the group offered conflicting rationales for blocking the bill.

They were upset with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) for backing the legislation without a warrant requirement, even though their upheaval means the warrant amendment they insisted has broad support will no longer get a vote.

“What we ended up with was a bill that didn’t have the warrant protections in the bill. It was going to be forced to be added as an amendment. And then the Speaker of the House put his finger on the scale against the amendment. And that pretty much is the story,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who voted against the rule, told reporters after the vote.

The move also shows that the long-running feud between the House’s Intelligence and Judiciary members over the matter is alive and well — the group of conservatives had also insisted a prior Judiciary bill instead be brought to the floor, legislation they argue places greater limitations on FISA.

Leaving the vote on Wednesday, Johnson said the House GOP conference would “regroup and reformulate another plan” to extend the country’s spying powers.

“We cannot allow section 702 of FISA to expire. It’s too important to national security. I think most of the members understand that,” he added.

The House GOP conference is scheduled to huddle behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon.

Section 702 allows the government to spy on foreigners located abroad, but that surveillance also sweeps in their communications with any Americans with whom they are in contact.

The issue of whether to require a warrant to access the information on Americans caught up in the surveillance has created strange bedfellows, with some members on both sides of the aisle uniting around an amendment they see as a safeguard for Americans, and others saying it would gut the program entirely.

The law is set to expire April 19 — a deadline that comes after the House was forced to pass a short-term extension of FISA 702 in December, as Republican lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on competing bills from the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

The failing of the rule vote is another major complication to legislation that’s twice seen its path to the floor scuttled, in December and then again in February, over a fight about adding an unrelated bill barring the government from buying data from private brokers to the package.

Now Republicans may have to work with Democrats to secure the two-thirds vote necessary to bring the bill to the floor under suspension, bypassing the rules process and with it the vote on the amendment to add the warrant requirement.

“They don’t understand governing, and they don’t understand how to figure out decent compromises,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a House Intel member who supports the base bill.

“Which is kind of ironic that these folks who are pushing the warrant requirement have put themselves in a position of not getting any of the reforms that they’ve needed.”

Blocking the potential for a vote on the warrant amendment makes things more complicated for other Republicans who backed the effort to move forward on the bill.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has said he will not back the FISA bill without the warrant amendment — hopes now dashed with the tanking of the rule.

“We need the rule to pass so we can get on the amendment and pass the warrant amendment,” Jordan told reporters after the vote. “I think we’re picking up steam on our warrant.”

Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, reacted to the tanked rule vote by telling reporters “this is why we can’t have nice things.”

“We just gave away all our negotiating power,” he added.

“You can’t wield the power of the majority if you can’t pass procedural votes,” Armstrong said at another point in the conversation. “If you’re not gonna help leadership wield the power of the majority and then on the back end get mad at them for putting things on suspension, you are making unrealistic expectations that just simply don’t exist in the real world.” 

When asked how the group would get a warrant secured to the bill now, Roy said, “We’ll find out, won’t we?”

Some of those who voted against the rule cited Trump directly.

“It’s pretty simple guys, you got to get a warrant,” Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.)  said after the vote. “President Trump made a pretty powerful statement.”

Johnson didn’t directly address Trump when asked about his role in the process, but he acknowledged the chaos of the vote.

“I’ll just say that it’s never helpful for the majority party to take down its own rules. And what it does ultimately, of course, is it weakens our hand in negotiations with the Senate and the White House, and so it’s not a good development but look, we’re going to work by consensus. We have to get the job done.”

This article was originally published in The Hill.