House Speaker Mike Johnson is facing another challenge as he tries to navigate an already tricky spy powers fight: an effort within his own ranks to link upcoming legislation to gun rights.
Rep. Warren Davidson is circulating a letter to Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise urging them to use a revived debate over controversial surveillance power to also prevent data brokers from selling consumer information to law enforcement.
And the Ohio Republican is weaving in another hot button issue, arguing that without changes, gun owners are at risk of being negatively impacted.
“It is vital that any forthcoming legislation Section 702 … close the data broker loophole. Congress now has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to update our laws to protect Americans’ liberty, Americans’ right to privacy and the Second Amendment,” Davidson wrote in the letter.
Davidson is collecting signatures from his colleagues for the letter, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO. The House Judiciary Committee already passed legislation on a bipartisan basis to prevent data brokers from selling consumer information to law enforcement.
It’s the latest potential hurdle for Johnson. House Republicans are hoping to bring a revived bill to change and reauthorize Section 702 to the floor this week. The surveillance power is meant to target foreigners abroad but has come under fire because of its ability to sweep in Americans data.
But a coalition of privacy hawks, including both progressives and conservatives in the House, view the data broker issue as a top priority for the 702 debate. They are expected to get a vote on an amendment related to it as part of this week’s debate.
And they are already getting support from some traditional GOP allies closely watching the debate.
Aidan Johnston, Gun Owners of America’s director of federal affairs, told POLITICO the group “is closely tracking the FISA loophole allowing federal law enforcement to buy lists of gun owners and concealed carry permit holders without a warrant or regard for the Second and Fourth Amendments.”
“We have serious concerns about the potential for the federal government to weaponize this data against Americans, especially given the Biden administration’s lengthy record of harassing and prosecuting political opponents, including gun owners,” he added.