House Republicans Deal Speaker Another Blow With FISA bill | Crooked Media
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April 11, 2024
What A Day
House Republicans Deal Speaker Another Blow With FISA bill

In This Episode

  • A group of House Republicans dealt Speaker Mike Johnson another embarrassing blow on Wednesday when they blocked legislation to extend part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. They did so after former President Donald Trump posted to “kill” the bill on social media.
  • Meanwhile, Republicans struggled to deliver a coherent response to Tuesday’s Arizona Supreme Court decision that said an 1864 law banning almost all abortion was enforceable. Trump said Wednesday, that the ruling went too far, just days after he said the issue should be left to the states. Other Arizona Republicans tried to distance themselves from the ruling after previously supporting harsh abortion restrictions. We pulled the receipts.
  • And in headlines: The latest Consumer Price Index report shows inflation is still stubbornly persistent; the Biden Administration announced a first-of-its-kind federal limit on so-called “forever chemicals” in drinking water; and New York City officials want to give rats birth control.

 

Show Notes

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, April 11th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.

 

Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day. And y’all, what did we tell you about looking directly at the sun during the eclipse? Like, did you not listen? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Apparently not. Because Google searches for my eyes hurt spiked right away on Monday, and they have been up ever since then. While you’re at it, maybe everyone can Google where you can find some sense, we told you this! 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, we got to do better people. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Please. [music break]

 

Juanita Tolliver: On today’s show, House speaker Mike Johnson was left adrift once again by his own party. Plus, New York City officials vote on a plan to control the rat population by sneaking birth control into the bait. You know. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Totally normal behavior. But first, yesterday, former President Donald Trump said that he would not sign a national abortion ban if he was elected to a second term as president, which goes against a promise that he first made as a candidate back in 2016 and maintained throughout his entire first term in office. This shift comes as his party’s liabilities around the issue of abortion rights have become increasingly clear, and it follows the latest hard line abortion ban out of Arizona. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: We covered this on yesterday’s show, but give us a quick recap before we get into the latest out of the state. 

 

Yes. So as we told you, Arizona’s state Supreme Court decided earlier this week to uphold a near-total ban on abortion, with no exceptions for rape and incest. It is literally 160 years old from before Arizona became an actual state. And of course, Democrats in the state legislature are doing everything they can to fight back against this. But Republicans have control, and they are scrambling to avoid that. In the state Senate yesterday, Republican leaders removed one such bill to repeal the law from the day’s agenda entirely. And in the House, after a lone Republican joined Democrats to try and get a vote on their bill, Republican leadership quickly called a recess to make sure that that vote didn’t happen. Take a listen to the House floor as Republicans attempted to leave afterwards, captured by the news website The Center Square.  [clip of a group of people chanting “shame” plays]

 

Juanita Tolliver: I wish they had a bell like in Game of Thrones. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Shame. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Those are not chants from protesters, those are chants from House Democrats. And they were followed by chants of shame that continued on for several minutes. It is not typical to see something like that happen on the floor of a state House. But Democratic lawmakers in Arizona are clearly incensed over this. This also comes as people and clinics all over the state scramble to figure out when this ban would go back into effect, and what they can do in the meantime. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And as you said, this ruling is exposing some fractures in the Republican Party on the issue. Tell us more about that. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. So we are watching Republicans continue to realize that their hardline stances on abortion and these bans are extremely unpopular. They consistently lose at the ballot box. So they’re trying to bend over backwards to have it both ways, and to win both the very vocal hardliners who want nobody to access abortion care and the more moderate and independent voters that they actually need to win anything. Former President Donald Trump, as you all know, has repeatedly taken credit for overturning Roe. And this week he said that this is an issue for the states. But when asked about this ban by reporters yesterday, which is a direct result of the death of Roe and Arizona reverting back to this 160 year old state law, he said that it went too far. This clip was recorded on a tarmac, so it is a little noisy. But take a listen. 

 

[clip of unspecified person interviewing Trump] In Arizona, don’t you [?]. 

 

[clip of Donald Trump] Yeah, they did and that will be straightened out. And you know, did you know it’s all about states rights, that’ll be straightened out.  And I’m sure that the governor and everybody else are going to bring it back into reason, and that will be taken care of, I think, very quickly. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: In that clip, he says Arizona went too far, but follows immediately with the idea that it’s all about states rights. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I feel like the cherry on top for me was him saying, the governor’s going to straighten this out. Did I dare hear former President Trump say a Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, had solutions? Yes, Democrats have solutions on abortion rights, and that means protections. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. Arizona, of course, as you all know, is a critical battleground state. Trump is trying to distance himself from the state court’s decision there, but he’s also responsible for why it happened. And as per usual, the people who come out looking the worst, arguably of them all, are the Trump acolytes. Take, for example, Arizona’s Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake. On Tuesday she came out against the court’s ruling, saying in a statement that she was calling on the state’s Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, who she actually ran against, to come up with a, quote, “common sense solution,” though she didn’t elaborate on what exactly that might mean. But back in 2022, she was out here calling this a great law. Take a listen to this interview that she did with podcaster James T. Harris. 

 

[clip of Kari Lake] Incredibly thrilled that we are going to have a great law that’s already on the books. So it will prohibit abortion in Arizona. And I think we’re going to be paving the way and setting course for other states to follow. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Meanwhile, there is Republican Congressman Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, who, per the National Journal, happens to be the eighth most vulnerable House Republican as we head into this fall. He also has a particularly egregious side by side. Back in 2022, when Roe was overturned, he tweeted, applauding the, quote, “historic day” and calling himself proudly pro-life, saying that he will always defend life. But flash forward to Tuesday, and he took to X to say that this ruling is a disaster and archaic, and that his record shows that he is a strong supporter of empowering women to make these decisions. You can imagine the laundry list of people who have these about faces, and it would be one thing if these people actually changed their stance. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: That part. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And believed the things that they were saying, but I think it’s abundantly clear to all of us that they don’t. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: They don’t believe it. They should stand firm in those previous statements and shout out to everybody circulating these clips, because voters need to understand who exactly they’re dealing with, and Republicans need to understand there is no way that they can contort themselves out of the reality that they cleared the runway for these abortion bans. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Pivoting to Washington, DC Republicans. Another day, another round of chaos for them as 19 members of the conference voted against a GOP proposed rule and tanked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization bill yesterday. We can add this latest revolt, which is typically a routine party line procedural vote, to the growing list of embarrassing defeats Republicans have dealt their leader, speaker Mike Johnson. And naturally, Donald Trump was involved in this moment. Similar to his angry social media post ahead of the failed bipartisan border deal, Trump posted online, quote, “Kill FISA. It was illegally used against me” hours before the vote, and this post is a bit of a one two punch. As Trump flexed his continued control over the GOP and fanned the flames of his long standing beef with the FBI for investigating his 2016 presidential campaign for possibly coordinating with Russian intelligence officials. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, so before we get into all of this, please break this down for us. What exactly is FISA?

 

Juanita Tolliver: It’s a national security law passed in 1978 that regulates how the U.S. spies on foreign agents via electronic monitoring and physical searches without warrants. Now, even though section 702 of FISA, which is set to expire on April 19th, only allows surveillance of foreigners. It can include American entities and individuals who are in communication with foreign targets. As a result, the intelligence community would be able to review electronic records of both foreign targets and American entities they engaged. The law is controversial because it allows surveillance without warrants, and because there have been legal cases in the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that proved that the federal government has violated the Fourth Amendment and illegally collected bulk phone data that belonged to Americans. So there are reasonable concerns about FISA. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. Okay, so where were Democrats during this FISA reauthorization vote? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Democrats sat back and watched the chaos. Take a listen to what Representative Pete Aguilar, chair of the Democratic Conference, had to say just before the vote. 

 

[clip of Pete Aguilar] So whatever the vote count is or whatever happens to that, it’s because the speaker has chosen not to advance this issue in a single stand alone process. If he chooses to go a different route, then we’ll reassess. But right now, the rule vote is very clear. It has partisan, you know, resolutions attached to it. And so I would not anticipate any Democrats supporting it. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: According to reports, the measure Aguilar was referring to was a partisan resolution criticizing Biden. So that’s why none of the Democrats jumped in to save Republicans from themselves yesterday. Aguilar also added that Democrats understand the need to reauthorize FISA for the sake of national security, but they would only do that on a clean bill. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Good. I mean, as they should. So what comes next in this FISA saga? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: House Speaker Johnson told reporters that he and Republicans would, quote, “regroup and reformulate another plan” and that his conference understood the need for the FISA reauthorization. To drive that point home, after the failed vote, national Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters, quote, “If we lost 702 of FISA, we would lose vital insight into precisely the threats Americans expect us and the government to identify and counter.” We’ll keep following this story as we approach the April 19th FISA expiration date. But that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: The everyday prices that we pay for groceries and gas ticked up in March, according to yesterday’s new Consumer Price Index. The report showed that consumer prices are about 3.5% higher than they were last March. It may not sound like much, but it’s still a quicker jump than experts predicted. Plus, we know that the state of the economy is a driving issue for voters and may impact how they show up for Biden. Yesterday’s report also showed that housing prices continued to rise. It is pretty frustrating all across the board, not only for consumers like you and me, but also for the fed. They were hoping to see inflation cool a bit more so that they could lower interest rates by early summer. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: The Biden administration announced yesterday that for the first time ever, the federal government will limit so-called forever chemicals in drinking water. The new standard for the Environmental Protection Agency requires public water systems to reduce six types of chemicals, collectively known as PFAS, to near zero levels. They earned the nickname Forever Chemicals because, well, they never really degrade and they’re almost impossible to destroy. They’re also everywhere, in everything from drinking water and soil to food containers and some cleaning products. They are even in dental floss, which if you floss regularly, like me, I’m sure you do. They’re in our gums now. And the EPA says exposure to PFAS can lead to all kinds of health problems like decreased fertility, developmental delays in kids, and increased risk of some cancers like prostate and kidney and higher cholesterol levels. The EPA says the rule will, quote, “reduce PFAS exposure to approximately 100 million people, prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious illnesses.” Public water systems will have three years to complete their initial monitoring for PFAS, and will have another two years to address levels that exceed the new standard. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Reducing this exposure for 100 million people–

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: –is a huge deal. Obviously, we all wish this happened sooner and this wasn’t an issue in our society, but I’m so glad that they are doing something about it now. The Tennessee’s GOP led Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would let public school teachers and staff carry a gun on school grounds. The move comes about one year after the tragic Covenant School shooting in Nashville, when a former student opened fire, killing three nine year olds and three staff members. And instead of advancing gun control legislation in response, Republican lawmakers have sought to arm teachers. Under the measure, teachers in grades K through 12 would be allowed to conceal carry a handgun in the classroom, meaning that they would not have to disclose that they are armed to their students or to their parents. And Republicans argue that this will somehow make schools safer because it would help teachers confront shooters. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: No, it won’t help make–

 

Priyanka Aribindi: No. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: –anything safer, I promise. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely no. About 200 protesters were in the gallery on Tuesday as senators debated this bill, some of them parents of kids who survived the Covenant shooting. And they made clear that they were against the idea of armed teachers by interrupting proceedings with chants of, quote, “kill the bill, not the kids.” The crowd got so disruptive that state troopers eventually cleared the gallery. Beth Gebhard, a mother whose children were at Covenant the day of the shooting, told The Tennessean newspaper, quote, “if they are supposed to be representative of our voice and they are dismissing these people, they are not for us. And it is appalling.” The bill now heads to the state House for a floor vote. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Some news out of Trump world. The longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization and right hand man was sentenced to five months in jail. Allen Weisselberg was convicted for lying under oath in Trump’s civil fraud trial. This is the second sentence that Weisselberg is carrying out after he pleaded guilty in 2022 to tax fraud charges with the Trump Organization. And this all happened just days before the beginning of Trump’s hush money trial. We called up Nick Ackerman, a former prosecutor in the Watergate investigation. He said that the Weisselberg news could foreshadow losing time for Trump as his trial kicks off next week. 

 

[clip of Nick Ackerman] The evidence came out that Weisselberg was given $1 million by Donald Trump essentially as hush money, which, by the way, is the same amount that Nixon approved for the Watergate burglars back in the the day. So taking all that history into account, I think that what Donald Trump has basically done here has reserved the space for himself at the presidential suite at Rikers Island if he’s convicted. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I mean, if that’s how this ends, then we got our popcorn ready. Not opposed. 

 

Truly not opposed. Also, just continually amazed that Donald Trump is like the Oprah of hush money. Apparently just handing it out left and right.

 

Juanita Tolliver: You get a payout and you get a payout!

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, yes. Everybody. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And we’re gonna call it a campaign expense. [laughing]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Exactly. New York City officials have come up with a new battle strategy in their forever war against the city’s rat population. That strategy is rat birth control. Yes. A new bill said to be introduced at the City Council today calls on the health department to scatter these fatty, salty pellets that can sterilize both male and female rats. Those pellets will be scattered across two city neighborhoods as part of a pilot program. How do I sign my neighborhood up? [laughter] New York has actually tried rat birth control before, but officials say that it’s worth trying again because of advancements in both the way the city stores trash and in rodent birth control. Who knew they were innovating in this area? Look, there was a statistic in the New York Times write up of this bill that said that a pair of rats has the potential to produce 15,000 descendants. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Oh my God. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: In a year, a single year. I don’t know, after reading that how you can come to any other conclusion other than the fact that we must just give up. Like the rats completely run the city. We don’t. It’s a losing battle. I don’t know if I’m ready to submit to my rat overlords, but I see the writing on the wall. [laughter] Or perhaps the pellets in the subway. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: The pellets in the subway for subway rat for pizza rat for all of the rats who have earned nicknames in New York. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: God. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I guess they’re coming for you. [laugh]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: They are. They really are. And those are the headlines. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, listen to us about your eyes and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just receipts that prove the hypocrisy of Republicans like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.

 

[spoken together] And no more gender reveals for you rats. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. I’m picturing a rat running around with a piece of cake and it’s [laughter] has a pink or blue frosting in the middle. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I was just picturing 15,000 baby rats a year. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Juanita, we don’t need the, like, pro-lifers to start defending the life of the fucking rats. We don’t need that. Please. No. [music break]

 

Juanita Tolliver: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Erica Morrison, Michell Eloy, Greg Walters and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Leo Duran and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. 

 

[AD BREAK]