The amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that that I wrote about yesterday that sought to defund just one NSA program, its ability to collect bulk records of American’s telephone records, lost by a close vote of 217 to 205 with 12 not voting, despite massive White House lobbying to defeat it.
Despite the defeat, there were some interesting and hopeful signs. The close vote on something so dear to the leadership of both parties must be shocking to them as an indicator of growing popular discontent. For another thing, the split was not along party lines.
While most contentious House votes in recent years have been marked by partisanship, the Amash amendment crossed party lines. Obama was joined in opposing Amash by seven Republican committee chairmen in the House, the Wall Street Journal, the conservative thinktank the Heritage Foundation, and an array of Bush-era national security officials, some of whom helped design the phone-records collection program.
For his part, Amash, a Republican, was joined by a coalition of libertarian Republicans and progressive Democrats. His amendment’s principal Democratic ally was longtime Michigan representative John Conyers, the ranking member of the House judiciary committee. Applause broke out from both sides of the party aisle for speakers for and against the Amash amendment.
The leadership of both parties (Boehner, Cantor, Pelosi, Hoyer), as expected, voted with the administration since they are all solid authoritarians, despite the occasional progressive noises that Pelosi makes from time to time to appease her progressive electorate in San Francisco. But the leadership had to walk cautiously since there is a lot of concern among the rank and file over the NSA’s practices. Glenn Greenwald discusses the strange coalition that was on display in yesterday’s debate.
Thanks to reader Jeffrey Johnson for providing the link so that you can see how each member voted. There were some disappointments such as Marcy Kaptur, Louise Slaughter, and Christopher Van Hollen who all voted to defeat the amendment.