WASHINGTON, D.C.: The United States (US) House of Representatives on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) narrowly beat back an effort to cut funding to National Security Agency (NSA) programs that scoop up telephone data on millions of Americans.
The amendment, following disclosures about the sweeping US surveillance programs, was backed by an unlikely coalition of ideological opposites—Tea Party Republicans and liberal Democrats—but their bid fell short in a 205-217 vote.
The legislation, introduced by Michigan Republican Justin Amash, was opposed by the White House and several senior members of Congress, including the House Republican leadership and the heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
But it forced lawmakers to go on record on perhaps the most sensitive national security issue of the year: whether the NSA program that collects telephone “metadata” on ordinary Americans breaches constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
Perhaps more importantly, it puts President Barack Obama on notice that there are deep bipartisan reservations about how the federal government conducts surveillance on its own people.
“The government collects the phone records, without suspicion, of every single American in the United States,” Amash said in a tense floor debate moments before the vote.
He warned that the government was using fear to help justify its “violation of rights.”
The amendment would have limited such data collection and retention to those Americans who are the subject of a specific investigation.