The House should pass the USA FREEDOM Act as-is and dare Obama to veto it

There’s some very concerning news on the push inside the House of Representatives to end the NSA’s bulk data collection programs. Negotiations with the White House could mean that the USA FREEDOM Act will be further watered down before it heads to the floor for a vote, potentially putting the best NSA reform measure in jeopardy:

Privacy advocates are worried that a bill intended to reform the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) is being watered down before it heads to the House floor.

“Last stage negotiations” between members of the House and the Obama administration could significantly weaken provisions in the NSA bill, people familiar with the discussions say.

“Behind the scenes, there’s some nervousness,” one House aide said.
While pro-reform advocacy groups and members hailed the House bill as a positive first step, many lamented the revisions and said the legislation will be in trouble on the floor if it undergoes further changes.

There is a “growing chorus of concern” that the bill that makes it to the floor for a vote could be a less meaningful version of what passed the Judiciary and Intelligence committees with overwhelming bipartisan support, the aide said.

Though the measure was somewhat watered down before it passed the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, the USA FREEDOM Act remained the best of the proposed measures to end the NSA’s bulk data collection programs, and it has broad, bipartisan support. Further changes could make the reforms in the measure unacceptable to privacy advocates both inside and outside of Congress.

The Washington Examiner reported this morning that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has “tentatively placed” the USA FREEDOM Act on the calendar for consideration this week. The bill is “subject to a rule,” meaning that amendments could be limited and vetted by the House Rules Committee in advance. If the measure is further watered down, the rule could make it very difficult to strengthen it through the amendment process.

Out of the treasure trove of scandals that have come out of this administration in the past couple of years, the NSA’s domestic surveillance has been the one scandal that has stuck with him. The House should make President Obama own it.

Don’t water down it down any further. The votes exist in the House to pass the measure. The House should pass the USA FREEDOM Act as it is and dare President Barack Obama, who has defended the NSA at every turn, to veto it.

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