GOP Congresswoman Leads Last-Minute Push to Revive Warrant Requirement in FISA Reauthorization

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
April 15, 2024Politics
GOP Congresswoman Leads Last-Minute Push to Revive Warrant Requirement in FISA Reauthorization
Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill November 30, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) is organizing what may be the last chance for the U.S. House of Representatives to implement warrant requirements in a set of U.S. domestic surveillance tools established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) after a key amendment failed on a tie vote last week.

Members of Congress have been deliberating whether to reauthorize certain sections of FISA, including Section 702—a provision allowing warrantless surveillance of foreign nationals’ communications, but through which the communications of U.S. citizens may also be swept up.

The Section 702 authority is set to expire on April 19 unless it’s reauthorized. A bill extending that provision—H.R. 7888—Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act—is currently before the House.

Amid concerns about its potential abuse, numerous members of Congress have opposed reauthorizing the Section 702 authorities without introducing additional language requiring a warrant before federal authorities review the communications of U.S. citizens. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) had proposed an amendment to H.R. 7888 requiring such warrants, but the amendment failed in a 212-212 tie vote, with several members not voting.

Following the failed amendment vote, the House voted 273–147 to pass H.R. 7888.

After the failed tie vote, supporters of the new warrant requirement advanced a motion to reconsider the amendment, but Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) offered a counter motion to table that motion to reconsider. The House initially sought to deal with the dueling motions through a voice vote on Mr. Turner’s motion, but Ms. Luna’s demand for a recorded vote resulted in a postponement.

FISA Fight ‘Not Over’

“The fight for taking down the unconstitutional FISA is not over. There is another vote on Monday!” Ms. Luna wrote in a Saturday social media post, along with a copy of a letter she had begun sharing with her fellow members of Congress.

Ms. Luna’s letter urges her colleagues to vote “No” on Mr. Turner’s motion to table, which could pave the way for reconsideration of Mr. Bigg’s warrant amendment.

The Florida congresswoman said H.R. 7888, as passed, would only impose a warrant requirement when Section 702 surveillance measures intercept communications belonging to members of Congress.

“Is the 118th Congress going to set the precedent that we, as Members of Congress, will be protected from warrantless searches but that the everyday Americans that we represent will not be?” Ms. Luna said. “I urge all Members of Congress to vote NO on the motion to table the motion to reconsider.”

Ms. Luna said her letter is specifically directed at 56 lawmakers who voted for the final passage of H.R. 7888 after they had voted for Mr. Bigg’s warrant requirement amendment.

The Florida congresswoman said concerns about FISA Section 702 allowing warrantless surveillance of Americans represents “an issue of grave importance to our Constituents and their privacy and security.”

“We must fight to get the Biggs Amendment adopted in the final passage of this legislation,” she continued. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in true bipartisanship to protect the U.S. Constitution and our constituents.”

Both Parties Divided on Warrant Amendment

The debate over FISA Section 702’s reauthorization and the warrant requirements have divided large numbers of lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.

128 House Republicans voted for Mr. Bigg’s warrant amendment, while 86 opposed it. On the inverse, 84 House Democrats supported Mr. Bigg’s amendment and 126 opposed it.

Former President Donald Trump came out in opposition to FISA reauthorization efforts, writing in an April 10 social media post, “KILL FISA, IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS. THEY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN!!!”

President Trump’s social media post may reference the use of other FISA authorities to surveil Carter Page, an advisor to his 2016 campaign.

Despite this urging from the former president and prospective 2024 Republican nominee, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) voted against Mr. Bigg’s amendment to impose warrant requirements in FISA Section 702 and voted in favor of H.R. 7888’s final passage.

Mr. Johnson used to support the warrant requirement but has said he changed his mind after receiving classified briefings on the program. In an April 14 appearance on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” the House speaker credited Section 702 with having prevented terrorist plots, and said a warrant requirement is “not helpful.”

“If we’re surveilling a terrorist in the Middle East, and the terrorist sends an email to a guy named John Smith in Any Town, U.S.A, and the email says, ‘The components will be delivered to your house this afternoon for further assembly and delivery to the high school stadium during the game,’ I think every American would want the analyst who saw that email from that foreign terrorist to do a query of the other communications between those two persons,” Mr. Johnson told Fox News.

If Mr. Turner’s motion to table reconsideration of Mr. Bigg’s amendment succeeds, H.R. 7888 appears likely to face a quicker passage in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.

President Joe Biden has spoken against the proposed warrant requirements and in favor of passing H.R. 7888 without Mr. Bigg’s amendment.

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