In a last-gasp effort to prevent the passage of a bipartisan FISA reauthorization bill, Representatives Warren Davidson (R., Ohio) and Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.) sent a last-gasp letter to upper-chamber leaders Monday urging them to oppose a Monday procedural vote that would fast-track the House-passed legislation.
“If cloture is invoked tonight, it will be the final success of a campaign to prevent any member of Congress from casting any vote for serious FISA reform” Davidson and Lofgren wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by National Review. The two legislators add that the bill “has not been marked by or passed out of any committee of jurisdiction.”
“In other words, there was not an opportunity to amend or cure defects in this bill,” they wrote.
The “USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020,” proposed by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) seeks to reauthorize FISA’s three surveillance powers which expired Sunday.
The bill would bolster privacy protections and implement additional checks on the FISA court, which granted the FBI a warrant to surveil Trump campaign officials in 2016 based on partial and in some cases inaccurate information. But civil liberties hawks such as Lofgren and Davidson say the bill does not go far enough to protect American citizens from what critics see as unconstitutional surveillance.
The Senate did not vote for the bill last week, after debates over further amendments or an extension for more time to negotiate failed to register. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill’s passing was not a question of if, but of when, FISA critics Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Rand Paul (R., Ky.) say it does not go far enough and have urged President Trump to veto it.
The president tweeted Thursday that “many Republican Senators want me to Veto the FISA Bill,” leaving the question up in the air.
In the buildup to a FISA bill, Davidson and Lofgren attempted to form a coalition of progressive and conservative FISA hawks to enact significant reforms closely aligned with their own legislation, “Safeguarding American’s Private Records Act (SAPRA),” which targeted Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
In February, Lofgren forced Nadler to pull a markup of his original FISA bill over fears that she had enough votes to enact amendments “pulled directly from SAPRA.” But following a meeting with Attorney General William Barr, who met with House Republicans and voiced his support for Schiff and Nadler’s bill, SAPRA’s reforms were sidelined.
“They essentially said ‘yea, no thanks, we think we got a different coalition of intel hawks and some centrist Republicans and Democrats, which are largely for preserving the status quo of frankly, spying on Americans in violation of the Constitution,’” Davidson told National Review of the negotiations with House leadership.