In the next few hours, the House will vote on an amendment from Republican Justin Amash of Michigan that would curtail the powers given to the NSA by the Patriot Act. And its backers think it has a shot at passage.
When I asked Representative Tim Huelskamp, who says he will vote for the amendment, about its prospects, he said, “Good question, it’s hard to tell. I think there’s some chances on that, but we’ll see. It will be an interesting vote.”
I asked if he was optimistic, and he responded, “I am optimistic. I’m optimistic as well that if it fails, there’s a lot of folks that are going to go home in August and have a very difficult time explaining why they are still allowing all these phone numbers to be collected.”
A Republican House aide tells me that the conservative Republican Study Committee had a tense meeting today regarding the amendment and that the group is split about 50–50 for and against it.
At a panel of conservative members held in conjunction with the Heritage Foundation today, Representative Raul Labrador told reporters that there’s a bipartisan coalition of sorts that’s come together around issues like this one. He added that he jokingly calls it the “Wingnut Coalition,” and that Amash is the “chief wingnut.”
“I think there’s a lot of good work being done on both sides of the aisle,” he continued.
After the panel, I asked him more about the coalition.
“You have a lot of conservatives in the House that came here to get things done,” he said. “We tend to be a little bit more libertarian-minded, we understand that civil liberties are important issues.”
He said he talks with Democratic representatives Jared Polis (Colo.) and Peter Welch (Vt.), and that he became close friends with Dennis Kucinich while he was in the House.
“I actually think the libertarian streak is the wave of the future of the Republican party,” he added.