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After a failed procedural vote on FISA earlier in the week, Johnson managed to secure a reauthorization of the spy program in the House. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Mike Johnson’s FISA Win Risks an Even Angrier Right-Wing Faction

“Some of them may see me showing up in their districts very soon to campaign against them,” Rep. Matt Gaetz said of those who voted against a warrant requirement in the bill.

Speaker Mike Johnson finally achieved a victory on the floor of the House. But it came with a price.

The House renewed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s Section 702 Friday, notably without including a warrant requirement for intelligence agencies wanting to query information about Americans — a provision the already frustrated far-right faction of the House Republican conference demanded.

“Every one of the members that voted against a warrant requirement, they own that,” Rep. Matt Gaetz said on the steps of the Capitol, just moments after FISA was passed by the House. “Some of them may see me showing up in their districts very soon to campaign against them,” he said, seemingly threatening his own colleagues.

Gaetz wasn’t the only Republican to allude to the political ramifications of voting against a warrant requirement.

“The default in this town is to want to let the engine keep going down the tracks, but when they start feeling the heat at home saying, ‘Hold on a second, you voting for this bill even though there’s no warrant protection?’ It’ll be interesting to see if that vote stays the same,” Rep. Chip Roy said before the House voted in favor of reauthorizing FISA without the warrant requirement.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, to include the warrant provision failed in a tense 212-212 tie vote, splitting both the Republican conference and Democratic caucus.

“The speaker didn’t want the warrant amendment,” Rep. Bob Good said of the final gavel drawing the tie.

The White House and intelligence community lobbied hard against the warrant requirement, reportedly circulating talking points that Biggs’ amendment would be “detrimental to national security.” Roy balked at the executive branch’s arguments, noting that the amendment would only require a warrant on “1% to 2%” of the queries made under FISA.

In a procedural move backed by his colleague Rep. Laurel Lee, Roy will have one last chance Monday to try and undo the vote. Lee called for a motion to reconsider the vote, which Rep. Mike Turner then called to table — both procedural votes will be addressed next week.

A number of Democrats, like Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Jerry Nadler, also wanted to include warrants as part of FISA.

“Chairman [Jim] Jordan and I agree on very little,” Nadler said on the floor during the debate on the amendment. “But, we are united in our belief that adding a warrant requirement to Section 702 is absolutely necessary before we consider supporting reauthorization of these authorities.”

Barring Roy and company’s attempt to reconsider the bill entirely on Monday, the FISA reauthorization will make its way to the Senate. There, lawmakers are also divided on how to proceed, with distrust of the FBI a core issue. FISA Section 702 expires on April 19.


John T. Seward is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.