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Bid to extend U.S. surveillance tools stalls after Trump threatens veto

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An effort to extend parts of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) stalled in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, after President Donald Trump promised to veto it and Republicans withdrew their support.

U.S. President Donald Trump deplanes from Air Force One as he returns to Washington after travel to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The House of Representatives’ Democratic leaders said late on Wednesday a vote on renewing three government surveillance rules that expired in March would not take place as expected. There was no word on when a vote might be rescheduled.

Trump threatened a veto on Twitter earlier on Wednesday, posting: “If the FISA Bill is passed tonight on the House floor, I will quickly VETO it.”

After the tweet, none of Trump’s fellow Republicans in the House backed a procedural measure related to the bill. Some of the 183 Republican “no” votes came from lawmakers who previously supported it.

There were “no” yes votes from Republicans. Fourteen did not vote.

With liberal Democratic privacy hawks also opposing the legislation, it was not clear that it could pass. Congress has never overridden a Trump veto.

U.S. security officials say the FISA provisions are essential tools for combating extremism and catching foreign spies. Privacy hawks say they do too little to protect Americans’ data.

Attorney General William Barr wrote an earlier version of the bill that passed the Democratic-controlled House - but not the Senate - with bipartisan support just before lawmakers left Washington as the coronavirus pandemic spread.

Trump recently turned against FISA, charging on Twitter that former Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration improperly used it for surveillance of his campaign aides in 2016.

The rules that would be renewed until December 2023 cover the FISA court’s approval of warrants for business records, allow surveillance without establishing that a subject is acting on behalf of an extremist group, and allow continued eavesdropping on a subject who has changed cellular telephone providers.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Tom Hogue

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