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House to Go Into Secret Session

In a rarely used procedure, the House will convene a secret session Thursday afternoon to debate the government’s warrantless wiretap program, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced.

Republicans sought the session — which will mark only the sixth time since 1812 — as the House prepared to vote on Democrats’ newest proposal to expand and extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The last time the House met in secret was in 1983 when Members discussed U.S. support for paramilitary operations in Nicaragua, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“The Majority received a request from the Minority Whip, Mr. [Roy] Blunt [R-Mo.], for the House to go into secret session. Mr. Blunt stated that Members in the Minority believe they have information relevant to the debate on FISA that cannot be publicly discussed,” Hoyer said in a statement. “The Majority agreed to Mr. Blunt’s request so that the Members may hear this information in a secret session that will proceed for one hour, equally divided, and controlled by the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader. At the conclusion of the debate, the secret session shall be dissolved.”

According to sources, the House floor could be shut down for up to three hours as the chamber is swept and prepared for the session. Only House Members and those staff or officers deemed essential are permitted to be present. The galleries are cleared.

The House may vote during the session to release a transcript of the meeting to be printed in the Congressional Record, but it is not required.

— Jennifer Yachnin

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