217 Democrats and Republicans: “We Love NSA Data Collection!”

Representative Justin Amash wanted to end the NSA’s data collection program. Basically, the NSA collects billions of phone records and houses them, sorting through the data and writing algorithms that look for particular patterns. These patterns apparently allow the NSA to detect when terrorists are communicating with each other.

The problem is, it’s a sweeping program that collects the records of anybody in the United States and those records are stored in perpetuity. Amash explained what his amendment would do:

“The government collects the phone records, without suspicion, of every single American in the United States. My amendment makes a simple but important change. It limits the government’s collection to those records that pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation pursuant to Section 215. Opponents of this amendment will use the same tactic that every government throughout history has used to justify its violation of rights: Fear. They’ll tell you that the government must violate the rights of the American people to protect us against those who hate our freedom.”

Amash’s amendment actually received support from an unlikely ally: James Sensenbrenner, the author of The Patriot Act. Here is what he had to say:

“This amendment does not stop the collection of data under Section 215 (about) the people who are subject to an investigation of an authorized terrorist plot. What it does do is prevent the collection of people who are not subject to an investigation. Relevance is required in any type of grand jury subpoena or a criminal collection of data for a criminal trial. This goes far beyond that in what the NSA is doing.”

The amendment failed on a vote of 217-205.

Immediately, the Twitter “libertarian” punditry launched an attack on…the GOP of course. Led by “libertarian” Doug Mataconis:

I use the quotes because Doug is one of those libertarians that spends 99.99% of this time whining about Republicans. He’s the libertarian version of people like Abby Huntsman and Megan McCain. They’re supposed “Republicans” that do nothing but concern troll about conservatives all the live long day. If they became Democrats, they wouldn’t have an audience.

The problem is, this was a bi-partisan vote. It’s foolish to think the entire GOP caucus was going to vote for this amendment. There are national security hawks within the GOP and they’ve always supported these types of programs. Was it disappointing more Republicans did not vote for this amendment? Absolutely.

But 83 Democrats also voted against this amendment. 

It was Reason who wrote about the vote in the most accurate way:

Amash Amendment Fails, 217-205 Along Bipartisan Lines

The Democrats, who fancy themselves as the “party of civil rights” couldn’t muster up seven more votes to end this program?

Know who voted against it? Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer. That’s right. The same two Democrats who demanded an independent investigation of the Bush administration when the NSA spying program was leaked in late 2005, have suddenly become national security hawks.

Oh and don’t forget who also opposed this amendment: The Obama administration. Remember candidate, “False Choice” Obama?

So where is the press calling them out on this hypocrisy? Many in the GOP, as much as I fault them for not getting more members to vote for this (especially with Sensenbrenner on board), were remaining true to their national security hawk roots.

The Democrats who voted against this amendment have no excuse.

This was a bipartisan failure. 

On a final note, Amash shares some of the responsibility for this flop. I like Amash and his views on taxes, spending, and abortion are in line with my own.  His transparency is evident in that he has never missed a vote in the House and he explains every vote he makes on his Facebook page.

However, Amash has a habit of pissing on the legs of other members of the GOP instead of working to build coalitions. That little rebellion against Speaker John Boehner in January won him fans among those who scream “RINO!” at every turn, but what did it do to his relationship with the man who can help him with these types of votes?

He needs to learn he’ll win people over by persuading them rather than bashing them.