House could weigh reauthorization of surveillance powers as soon as next week

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.)
Allison Robbert
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) addresses reporters after a closed-door House Republican Conference meeting on Wednesday, January 10, 2024.

The House could take up a bill to extend the nation’s warrantless surveillance powers as soon as next week, a move that would represent a quick turnaround after Republicans were unable to coalesce around competing proposals to reauthorize the spy tool.

Lawmakers last year were forced to pass a short-term extension of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the government to spy on noncitizens located outside the United States.

While the debate last year set up a battle between House Judiciary Republicans and their counterparts on the House Intelligence Committee, a working group has quietly hashed out differences in the two packages.

Sources described the coming bill as an “amalgamation” of the two earlier proposals, one that rests more heavily on the Intelligence bill that included broader reforms for the FBI and limited access to the 702 database but did not otherwise require a warrant for a search.

One Republican source said there was a “60/40 chance” a bill makes it to the floor next week as lawmakers scramble to finalize text.

“The next 24 hours are pivotal,” the GOP source said.

Another source familiar with the bill said numerous amendments are expected, in part to allow the full House to weigh whether to require a warrant to search the 702 database — something the intelligence community has described as a red line. 

House leadership previously toyed with an up or down vote on just a warrant requirement, something that annoyed some members of the GOP conference who encouraged Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to pick one of the two approaches.

Section 702 is set to expire in April, and considering a reauthorization bill in February would bring it to the floor ahead of a two-week recess, after which appropriations bills are expected to consume much of the floor time.

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