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.
GOP leadership keeps stalling, showing the push is putting Speaker John Boehner in a bind. The House Rules Committee, which will decide whether the amendment gets a vote on the floor, delayed its proceedings yesterday for the second time this week. The underlying bill, the Department of Defense Appropriations bill, has also been expected on the floor for the past several weeks but keeps getting pushed back.
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.
Joining with Amash are conservative Republican representatives Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Thomas Massie of Kentucky as well as liberal Democratic representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and John Conyers of Michigan. Conyers is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
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,” he says, adding “our effort is not aimed at overseas spying operations that are legitimate and constitutional.” It’s the “collection of all Americans’ phone records here in the United States” that he opposes.