This Feb 2024 Gateway Pundit article describes an attempt by two Republican congress members to inspect rooms at a Ramada Inn in Arizona that had allegedly been rented by the Casa Alitas program to temporarily house migrants released from detention.

The politicians claimed to have the right to inspect federally funded facilities for "oversight".

Rep. Tiffany said this facility was utilizing federal funding, of which US Congress has oversight, and that he would like to speak with a manager. The employee wouldn’t even let the congressmen into the office.


“No, we’re here as members of Congress, and there are federal dollars that go into this operation. So we have oversight. And we just want to go in and see what your operation looks like.”

Does a member of congress have any special physical access to buildings that receive federal funding?

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    We are going to need more details as what the facility is for is going to have a large impact on what access they have. Depending on what facility is in question it could prevent them from having access or require them to go through some sort of procedure to get access. As an example I don't think anyone would expect a member of congress to be able to go to a secure nuclear missile site and get access after demanding to as a member of congress.
    – Joe W
    Commented Feb 11 at 15:07
  • @JoeW I don't think you're going to need those details because the claim I'm questioning is "No, we’re here as members of Congress, and there are federal dollars that go into this operation. So we have oversight." The claim isn't specific to a facility. The claim is simply that "oversight" gives individual members of congress special access to operations. A single instance of this being true would prove the point, regardless of the facility. And I imagine this has been litigated. As is though, my gut tells me congress is treated like laypeople with regard to tacit access rights. Commented Feb 12 at 0:33
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    Yes, we do need details about what federally funded facility they are claiming that they need to inspect. As it turns out that it is just hotel rooms being rented with federal funds that claim is ridiculous as federal funding doesn't give them the right to inspect private businesses. Also no matter what is being used to pay for them hotel rooms will never be facilities of any kind. That would be like claiming that they could inspect the home of any member of the military because they are being paid for in whole or part with basic assistance for hosing federal money.
    – Joe W
    Commented Feb 12 at 1:33
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    @JoeW I'm not sure you get how skeptics.se works. I bring a claim that I'm skeptical of, and others supply answers to address the skepticsm. The skepticism here was NOT that they had a right to visit this specific location (because it's special, or they called in advance, or any other single-instance special casing that would make this location special). The skepticism is about the claim by the congressmen that they have a right to enter a facility because the operation is federally funded. Commented Feb 12 at 2:16
  • @EvanCarroll: Do they make that claim? It seems they are specific to "this operation". It isn't clear that they would continue to assert this "right" for nuclear missile silos or solitary confinement wings. [I think the hardest part of this question is the "proving a negative" aspect. If, as I suspect, this is just blowhard politicians doing a publicity stunt, how could we show that the funding contract doesn't come with an "any congressman can inspect any time" clause?]
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 12 at 8:33

1 Answer 1


Does a member of congress have any special physical access to buildings that receive federal funding?

Sure; members of congress are often given special access to private facilities. This is most likely because businesses that are recipients of government money would like that to continue, and aggravating the people who get to vote on you getting money in the future is unwise.

“No, we’re here as members of Congress, and there are federal dollars that go into this operation. So we have oversight. And we just want to go in and see what your operation looks like.”

Congress does have oversight over how funds are spent, and the congressmen do want to go in and see how this operation is being conducted. Both of these things are true.

I take it that these members of congress think they can go wherever they want if federal funds are used because "they have oversight."

This interpretation from a comment, that congressional representatives have a special right to enter private property, is false. Government agents can ask for consent to search private property without a warrant, but do not have the right to do so without consent. This is a constitutional right, the 4th Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The supreme court has specifically held that congressional investigation is subject to constitutional limitations in Watkins v United States:

(a) The power of Congress to conduct investigations, inherent in the legislative process, is broad, but it is not unlimited.

(b) Congress has no general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of Congress.

(c) No inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of Congress.

(d) The Bill of Rights is applicable to congressional investigations, as it is to all forms of governmental action.

In addition, the Supreme Court has explicitly held that the 4th amendment applies to hotel rooms in Stoner v California, summarized as:

A hotel guest is entitled to the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The hotel clerk had no authority to permit the room search, and the police had no basis to believe that petitioner had authorized the clerk to permit the search.

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    @CJR: Administrative Inspections are not violations of the 4th Amendment. I think the question remains if the funding agreement permits such inspections. [I know the OP is generalising to every possible case, but the politicians may well have had the right for this class of funding.] And yes, it is going to be hard to show there ISN'T such a clause.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 13 at 0:27
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    @JoeW: The politicians believed that public funding went to Casa Alitas to set up a facility, and Casa Alitas rented space from Ramada Inn for that facility. Ramada Inn shouldn't give them access without permission, but it might be the case that Casa Alitas was obliged to grant permission as a condition of the funding. <- I suspect, without evidence, that this isn't the case; I think the politicians were blowhards trying a publicity stunt. However, an answer quoting only the 4th Amendment doesn't address it at all.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 13 at 1:57
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    Since that's random speculation unrelated to the actual claim I'm going to ignore it. I addressed the claim made (and already responded to one opinion comment too many). If you're interested in hypotheticals perhaps try politics or law.
    – CJR
    Commented Feb 13 at 2:19
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    -1: I believe this does not answer the actual claim. It gives a glib constitutional overview without considering the actual circumstances. It would be shot down on Law.SE.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 13 at 14:00
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    @CJR: It would be shot down because your legal analysis is shallow. In your described world, restaurant health inspections would be unconstitutional.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 13 at 23:22

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