As we’ve seen in other debates over the NSA’s surveillance, the roll call produced some interesting cross-cutting. Ninety-four Republicans sided in favor of the amendment, along with 111 Democrats. Missing, however, was transparency hawk (and darling of the Internet) Rep. Darrell Issa, who voted to uphold the NSA’s surveillance program.
Issa didn’t offer a public explanation for his vote, and efforts to reach his office received no responses Thursday morning.
Other committee leaders played a crucial role in rallying opposition to Amash. House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) spent much of Wednesday making calls to other members.
Amash faced stiff high-ranking opposition. The leadership of both parties, as well as the White House, vocally opposed weakening the NSA’s ability to conduct surveillance. But Amash still managed to mount a strong defense – which suggests that momentum is building for critics of the NSA.
“The tide is turning,” read an update last night posted to DefundtheNSA.com, a Web site launched hours before the vote by Sina Khanifar, a digital activist. The site now has a list of the complete roll call, divided into two groups: those who voted for the amendment and those who voted against it. Beneath each lawmaker’s photo is a button urging constituents to tweet or call.
“They were very worried,” said Conyers of the Democratic leadership, which opposed the amendment along with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “And the fact that they won this narrowly means they still are worried because this thing isn’t over yet.”
Earlier this month, polls from Quinnipiac and The Washington Post showed a swing in public opinion against the NSA programs. That’s in contrast to a Pew survey conducted immediately after the NSA story broke that showed only a quarter of Americans following those developments closely.
In a few weeks, the online advocates at Restore the Fourth plan to launch new protests against the NSA. In New York, the demonstrations will closely resemble the organization’s events that took place July 4. But in other cities, said spokesman Derick Bellamy, organizers will bring in policy experts to teach workshops and do a bit of on-the-spot education. Restore the Fourth aims to get 100,000 attendees during its “1984 Day” on Aug. 4.
Senior lawmakers and the White House hoped that last night’s vote would become a release valve – a strategic opportunity to let upset congressmen blow off some steam. But, it seems, Team Amash views the amendment’s defeat as simply a tactical setback.
“Let off steam”? Fuck off.
This was part kabuki and part a demonstration of genuine anger by a Congress that felt they had been Rick-Rolled by the NSA: no warning about all the illicit wire-tapping; no cover for Congressmen to hide behind, not even the pretense of an excuse. Nada, zip, nil, nothing. Damn skippy they were letting off steam!
Yet…not so much steam that it would have par-boiled the NSA. You do realize the vote failed, right?