Rep. Justin Amash Now Looking To Strip NSA Of Its Power To Collect Phone Data On Innocent Americans

from the telcos-will-have-to-find-a-different-way-to-ingratiate-themselves-with-the-govt dept

We recently wrote about Rep. Justin Amash's plan to strip the NSA of funding by adding an amendment to the defense appropriations bill making its way through the house. The plan was not without its obstacles, not the least of which was a last-minute change in rules deliberately aimed at preventing actions like Amash's.

With the open amendments process effectively nullified by the change in process, Amash has changed tactics a bit.

Representative Justin Amash of Michigan is on his way to forcing the first legislative showdown over the National Security Agency’s controversial policy of collecting the phone logs of every American.

The venue for the fight is an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would ban the NSA from collecting information from people who aren’t under investigation.
This one seems like it might have a better chance of surviving any pushback by Republicans hoping to shepherd the appropriations bill through the house. Even with the rules change, if Amash's amendment is allowed to receive a floor vote, it could still end up as part of the larger bill. So far, the House Rules Committee is fighting the amendment by postponing the vote, something it did twice last week.

Even if the HRC manages to kill off the amendment by denying it a floor vote, it may find itself facing something even worse.
The catch is, if the Rules Committee doesn’t allow a vote on the amendment, Amash and a coalition of Republicans and Democrats probably have the votes to bring the whole bill down. To do so, they could vote against the “rule,” which governs debate for the bill. Those are typically party-line votes, so only a few Republicans would need to join the Democrats to defeat it.
Amash's actions can't be making Speaker of the House John Boehner very happy. Rather than easing through an annual DoD budget, Boehner is facing combative legislators attempting to send a message to the NSA (and to their constituents). Neither option looks particularly palatable, and thus far, the Speaker hasn't shown he can muster a unified front, much less cross party lines like Amash can.
Amash says the amendment could get widespread support in a roll call vote. “The coalition is much broader than just libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberals. If you talk to members from across the political spectrum you’ll find widespread disapproval of what the NSA is doing...”
Either way this plays out, the NSA's going to be perturbed. If the appropriations bill sails through with the amendment attached, it will be faced with a possible ban on part of its domestic surveillance activities. There's little doubt the NSA will get its powers reinstated, but it will have to go through a very public battle in order to do so. In the current climate, it's doubtful that many would leap to its defense, other than the usual suspects.

If Amash's amendment is prevented from receiving a floor vote, the entire appropriations bill might be shot down. If that happens, and the Department of Defense's budget is in jeopardy, you can imagine the Speaker's office will be quickly filling up with agency heads looking to get their hands on an impotent Boehner.

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  1. icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 22 Jul 2013 @ 7:08am

    Re: Re: look at all those republicans

    For someone saying that both Dems and Repubs are 2 sides of the same coin, you seem to have taken the Republican line on the ceiling fan thing hook/line/sinker.

    They're not going make the fan you have now illegal, and send some guy to rip it out of your ceiling, but what they'll do is make sure new ceiling fans that are sold are more efficient.

    Fact: most ceiling fans use a horribly inefficient motor that hasn't had its overall design changed in more than 100 years.
    Fact: inefficient use of energy from appliances generates waste heat, partially negating the entire purpose of a ceiling fan.
    Fact: the whole energy efficiency push was started under President Bush.
    Fact: the loudest Republican voice against this is our favorite representative, Marsha Blackburn from Nashville Tennessee, whose district also (totally coincidentally, I'm sure) includes the largest manufacturer of the horribly inefficient ceiling fans in the US.

    Remember the push for efficiency in lightbulbs? A whole lot of whining and screaming that turned out to be nothing? Yep, and now we're better off.

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