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Kaine / Warner Vote For Warrantless Spying On Americans But Against Trial Of Impeached Official

On April 12, the House of Representatives voted 273-147 to continue for two years a powerful and controversial surveillance authority, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Showing the divided state of our nation and government, there was a tied 212-212 vote on an amendment that would have required a warrant before US government agencies could spy on American citizens. Since the vote was a tie, the amendment died. 

Proving “politics makes strange bedfellows,” the “Yes” votes for the amendment included 128 Republicans and 84 Democrats, while “no” votes included 86 Republicans and 126 Democrats.

In general, the most liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans voted together, making a valiant but ultimately failed bid to protect civil liberties from the overreaching hand of government surveillance.

At issue is the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Reps. Ben Cline (VA-6) and Morgan Griffith (VA-9) were among the “no” votes.

In an April 19 letter to a constituent, Cline explained the FISA issue this way:

“Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress enacted Section 702 of FISA to allow federal intelligence agencies to surveil foreign threats abroad. This provision allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept emails, phone calls, and text messages from specific non-Americans overseas–including those routed through US companies or stored on US servers.

“Although Section 702 is intended to be a beneficial tool to protect the United States against foreign threats and adversaries, it lacks provisions to protect civil liberties, such as allowing warrantless domestic surveillance of Americans. This is unacceptable, and when the House voted to reauthorize FISA on April 12th, I could not vote for the bill due to the continuation of the warrantless surveillance powers in Section 702.”

When asked for an official statement, Cline’s office responded by email:

Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA6)

“While it is critical that our intelligence agencies have the resources they need to counter foreign terrorism, we know that some FBI officials have misused the FISA process to surveil American citizens. By a tie vote, Rep. Andy Biggs’ amendment to stop warrantless spying on Americans unfortunately failed on the House Floor. That’s why I voted against the final passage of H.R. 7888, the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act because of the flawed reauthorization of FISA Section 702. Not only does this provision allow for the violation of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, but it continues to diminish the already waning American people’s trust in our intelligence agencies.”

Shortly after the House vote, US Senators Tim Kaine (D) and Mark Warner (D) joined the Senate majority in approving the FISA extension without requiring warrants for government spying of US citizens. The Roanoke Star asked Sens. Kaine and Warner for a statement about their votes, but none has been received.


A different matter before Congress recently was the continuing controversy surrounding Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. As reported here on Feb. 19, the House in a narrow 214-213 margin voted to impeach Mayorkas, the first cabinet member to suffer such an indignity since 1876, in the scandal-plagued Grant administration. The House’s impeachment articles allege Mayorkas has lied to Congress and deliberately has not enforced federal immigration laws, thus enabling the unprecedented influx of illegal aliens since Biden occupied the White House.

On April 16, the House Impeachment Managers, including Rep. Cline, delivered the articles of impeachment to the Democrat-led Senate. However, the next day, after only a few hours of discussion, the Senate dismissed the entire case as “unconstitutional” and lacking evidence. However, it was impossible for the House managers to produce the evidence they had gathered, because the Senate allowed no trial.

Article II, Section 4 of the US Constitution states:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Whereas the Constitution gives the House the power to impeach, it gives the Senate the responsibility to hold a trial, and to set a high bar, removal from office requires a two-thirds vote.

This was the first time in US history the Senate dismissed an impeachment case without the presentation of evidence and a trial.

On the subject of the aborted Mayorkas trial, Cline stated by email on April 22:

“I had the honor of being selected as an impeachment manager and along with my fellow managers, we delivered the impeachment articles over to the Senate last week. I am extremely disappointed that the Senate did not hold a trial, weigh the evidence, and hold Secretary Mayorkas accountable. The Senate’s dismissal of the impeachment articles is a betrayal of the American people. For three years, Americans have demanded that Secretary Mayorkas be held responsible for his disregard of our country’s immigration laws and jeopardizing every American’s safety. By voting to bypass their constitutional duty, Senate Democrats are ultimately endorsing the open border agenda of Biden and Mayorkas that has created the worst border crisis in our history.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blasted the Democrats’ position: “The majority leader has argued that Secretary Mayorkas’ defiance of federal immigration law and active aiding and abetting of the worst criminal invasion in our nation’s history does not constitute a high crime or misdemeanor. He has presented no argument on that question.”

Since Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner joined the Democrat majority in moving to dismiss the impeachment articles and refusing to hold a trial as the Constitution mandates, The Roanoke Star asked both for a statement. However, none has been received.

Sen. Kaine and Reps. Cline and Griffith will face re-election this year.

–Scott Dreyer

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