How The House Leadership Tried To Misrepresent Amendment That Defunded NSA Backdoor Searches

from the and-yet-it-still-passed-overwhelmingly dept

We already wrote about how Reps. Goodlatte and Ruppersberger misrepresented the milestone amendment put forth by Reps. Massie, Lofgren and Sensenbrenner to defund the NSA’s backdoor searches and mandates to put (different kinds of) backdoors in technology. However, we’d heard that the House leadership was so desperate to block the amendment that they put a totally misleading description on it — and it’s true:

If you can’t see that, it says:

Prohibits funds from being used to fully exploit lawfully collected foreign intelligence information collected under Sec. 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

This is, of course, nearly identical to the language that Goodlatte himself used on the floor to urge his colleagues to vote against it. And, of course, as it was when Goodlatte said it, it’s tremendously misleading here. It presumes that the information is “lawfully” collected, and also leaves out the rather key point that the amendment was merely blocking the ability to search the communications of Americans collected in this manner without a warrant. In other words, it not only totally misrepresented the amendment, but it purposely painted it in a ridiculous light, pretending that it was about blocking the NSA from doing something perfectly legal.

Given just how laughably misleading the House’s own description of the amendment is, it’s that much more incredible that the House overwhelmingly voted for the amendment, 293 to 123. In the end, it’s a small miracle that it still passed, and by such a large margin — but it also shows that many more in the House are realizing just how misleading leadership and “NSA-friendly” Representatives are being about these programs.

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Comments on “How The House Leadership Tried To Misrepresent Amendment That Defunded NSA Backdoor Searches”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not so sure. Voting is (mostly) compulsory in Australia, and we have some of the same problems, and some novel new ones.

Same problem: We basically have two major parties (and several smaller parties), and each election comes down to choosing between Labour and Liberal.

Novel problem: While we do have small parties to choose from, I think compulsory voting actually makes it harder for the smaller parties to have a chance, since they need half of the people in their electorate to vote for them, rather than merely half of the people who vote. Net impact means that every person who votes for “the major party that they dislike the least” (practically the national sport) also happens to be voting against the small guy/gal.

So… forcing everyone to vote is really only an inaccurate proxy for the real goal of wanting everyone to care.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I don't see how they know what to vote for

“How the world does any representative know what to vote for these days?”

That’s kind of the problem with democracy these days. People think their civic responsibility ends at going to the polls and voting. They just need to pick the candidate that will do the best job of representing them, and that’s it until the next election.

The problem is that’s not true. Elections are just the hiring process, you still need to give them their marching orders. You need to actually contact them to tell them how you want them to vote on a given bill and why, then follow up and contact them with your approval or disapproval of how they voted. Then when the next election comes around you need to vote based on how well they’ve followed your orders.

Congressmen aren’t psychic, they don’t magically know how their constituents want them to vote on specific bills. If you don’t tell them how to vote, they’ll just vote whatever way they personally feel is best. If few to no people complain, they did the right thing as far as they’re concerned. If lots of people tell them to vote a certain way, then complain when they don’t, then they’ll get concerned.

Yes money talks and corporations and special interest groups effectively throwing wads of cash at them have their sway. But if 10% of their constituents are telling them to vote a certain way, and the rest are silent, in a district where a mere 5% could swing the election against them, you can bet your ass they’ll sit up and take notice. There will always being someone else trying to buy them off in one way or another, but if they don’t get reelected, the cash flow drops off significantly.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Amazing.

When a bill is read out on the floor of the House or the Senate, it is generally read only by its allegedly-descriptive title, and that title generally ends with the catchall “and for other purposes”.

As a way to counter this, I’ve thought about the possible ramifications of having a requirement that before either house of Congress can hold a vote on a bill or amendment, the full text of that bill (as amended) must be read out on the floor of the relevant house of Congress.

If any bill is voted on without having been so read, the requirement would hold that the vote is invalid.

If any amendment is submitted, voted on, and accepted, then the requirement would hold that the bill is once again considered to not have been read out in full, since its as-amended text has been modified from the version which was already read out.

(Taking things further, I’ve also considered requiring that in order to be eligible to vote on a bill, a member of Congress must actually have been present on the floor during such a full-text reading. But I think that might be going a bit overboard.)

In addition to its obviously intended effects of making it harder to claim that a bill does one thing when it actually does another, this would have one major “side-“effect: vastly increasing the time required to pass a given bill, since you can no longer simply read out the title but must read the full text of the bill, possibly multiple times. Some people might consider that an advantage, and others might consider it a drawback, but it would certainly have to be taken into account either way.

It’s possible that this might end up causing more trouble than it solves. But I think it’s an interesting idea, nonetheless…

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