The House of Representatives could take up the annual defense appropriations bill this week, but may take the extraordinary step of limiting amendments in what seems to be an attempt to stop an effort to defend the National Security Agency’s unconstitutional spying program.
On Monday, The Hill reported that Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) was urging House Republican leaders to allow his amendment to come to the floor for a vote:
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is mounting a push this week to defund the surveillance programs at the National Security Agency.
Amash said Monday that the defense appropriations bill, which could come to the House floor this week, was a chance to stop the NSA’s “unconstitutional spying on Americans.”
“Most important bill this week: DoD Approps. We can defund #NSA’s unconstitutional spying on Americans—if House leaders allow amendments, Amash tweeted Monday.
But The Hill also noted that Rep. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), chairman of the House Rules Committee, told his colleagues that his committee may bring the defense appropriations bill out under a special rule that would prevent Amash and others from offering amendments. Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner notes that isn’t the open process that House Republicans promised when they took over in 2011. Sessions cited “sensitive and ongoing issues related to national security” as the reason for the unusual process.
The NSA has used Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to obtain phone records of virtually every American, even if they are not suspected of a crime. While this section of the law does allow intelligence and law enforcement agencies to access third-party business records, its use is supposed to be limited to investigations into suspected terrorist activity. Obtaining the phone records of Americans so broadly goes against the very basis of the Fourth Amendment, which the Founding Fathers put in place to prevent this sort of general warrant.
Amash, a libertarian-leaning Republican, has been highly critical of the NSA’s surveillance program. He’s joined Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) to introduce legislation to reform the PATRIOT Act by providing greater privacy protections for Americans. He has also called on Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to resign for lying under oath about the NSA’s spying program.