Making sense of FISA's strange bedfellows in Congress

How a controversial intelligence gathering law is bringing progressive Democrats and privacy hawk Republicans together

Chairman Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, left, speaks with ranking member Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn
House Select Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) left, speaks with ranking member Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn)
(Image credit: Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

It may seem as if the tectonic plates of American politics are moving inexorably apart from one another, propelled as much by a zero-sum sense of partisanship and radicalization as by any sincere ideological differences. With Republicans increasingly under the sway of former President Donald Trump's MAGA influence, and Democrats grappling with an unexpectedly effective movement from its leftmost flank, it feels like there's less space for bipartisan aisle-crossing than perhaps at any other time in recent memory. Nevertheless, there are rare moments of comity between even some of the most ostensibly incompatible lawmakers; perhaps nowhere has that harmony produced stranger bedfellows than in the ongoing debate over section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

This week, a group of adamant House Republicans joined Democrats in tanking a procedural vote to renew the controversial law, which allows U.S. intelligence agencies to assess information about American citizens without a warrant when picked up in surveillance sweeps of foreign entities. The group's opposition to the FISA renewal is motivated in part by former President Donald Trump's urging to "KILL FISA" for having been "ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME." But it also stems from longstanding frustrations with House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and a larger, unexpected alliance between congressional conservatives and leftists over allegations of government overreach and invasions of privacy. How has FISA, perhaps more than any other recent piece of high-profile legislation, brought together lawmakers from both the House Freedom Caucus and Progressive Caucus?

'Odd bedfellows'

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Rafi Schwartz, The Week US

Rafi Schwartz has worked as a politics writer at The Week since 2022, where he covers elections, Congress and the White House. He was previously a contributing writer with Mic focusing largely on politics, a senior writer with Splinter News, a staff writer for Fusion's news lab, and the managing editor of Heeb Magazine, a Jewish life and culture publication. Rafi's work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GOOD and The Forward, among others.