House Votes Down Amash Amendment

by Betsy Woodruff

Well, that’s that. The House just voted down the Amash amendment, 205-217. The amendment, sponsored by Representative Justin Amash (R., Mich.) would have blocked the NSA from indiscriminately collecting Americans’ phone records. After vigorous debate, both behind closed doors and on the House floor, the bipartisan coalition pushing for the amendment was narrowly defeated, with 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats (including Representative Nancy Pelosi) voting to keep the NSA program in place.

Afterwards, Amash told reporters he’s still optimistic about the possibilities of curtailing NSA power, despite today’s loss.

“There is real support for amending these programs,” he said, adding that he expects the House to become more libertarian with time.

“That is seeping into this body slowly but surely,” he said, “and you’re at times seeing a clash between those type of Republicans, the newer Republicans, and Republicans who were here in the Bush administration and before.”

“The number of Republicans who hold those positions is gradually dwindling,” he continued, referring to pro-NSA Republicans in Congress. “And it won’t take more than a few more cycles before, I think, it shifts dramatically.”

Representative John Conyers (D., Mich.), who co-sponsored the amendment, told reporters he’s heartened by the number of votes the amendment received. He said the coalition’s efforts concerned the NSA’s defenders, and that that’s a good thing.

“They were very worried,” he said, “and the fact is, they still are worried. This thing isn’t over yet. This is just the beginning!”

Representative Mark Sanford, who also voted for the amendment, said to expect more action after the August recess. “I think the first crack at the apple will be the intel bill that comes up post-recess, and people will go from there,” he said.

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