Today, Congress announced the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) for Fiscal Year 2024. The NDAA is an annual bill that contains important provisions related to the Department of Defense and international security, among other things. An earlier version of the bill contained two key provisions related to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”): The Lobbying Disclosure Improvement Act and Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act, both of which had passed in the Senate earlier this year. The final NDAA bill released today, however, does not contain these provisions. It is not clear why these provisions were removed. Press reports indicate that the bill’s managers were stripping provisions over which there were disagreements between the chambers in an effort to get the annual bill passed before the holidays. The lack of a House-passed companion provision therefore could have been fatal to the Senate’s FARA-related provisions.
More substantively, although there is bipartisan support for the regulation of foreign agents, legislators appear to be divided regarding the best approach for reform. Senator Bob Menendez (D – N.J.), who was indicted on federal bribery charges earlier this year, has reportedly objected to reform of laws regulating foreign lobbying and has blocked similar legislation in the past. On the other hand, Senator Grassley (R – Iowa) and others have engaged with the Department of Justice to develop comprehensive reform bills. At the recent American Conference Institute’s 5th National Forum on FARA, Department of Justice officials signaled that the Department continues to seek legislative reform to FARA. Accordingly, Congress may take up more comprehensive legislation that addresses the Department’s legislative priorities at a later date. Covington will continue to monitor and report on FARA legislation.