Connecticut House members split over NSA

Washington — Connecticut’s House members were split Wednesday on an effort to strip the National Security Agency of its authority  to spy on Americans.

It was narrowly defeated on a vote of 205-217.

Among its supporters were Reps. John Larson, D-1st District, Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District.

“There’s already enough information out there,” Larson said.

He said he regretted defying the White House, which had called for a dialogue instead of a vote on the issue. “There has to be dialogue on the issue, but not after the fact,” Larson said.

But Reps. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, and Jim Himes, D-4th District, voted against it.

The amendment to the $598.3 billion spending bill would have forbidden the NSA from interpreting Section 215 of the Patriot Act in a way that has allowed the agency to routinely collect the daily phone records of millions of Americans for the past several years.

Revelation of the collection of this “metadata” by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who is now a fugitive, created a strange coalition of lawmakers opposed to the NSA’s snooping.

Tea party members, including Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who sponsored the amendment, joined some of the most liberal members of the House in calling for an end to the collection of data.

Fellow Michigan lawmaker Rep. John Conyers, a longtime Black Caucus member and senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, co-sponsored the amendment.

The White House late Tuesday issued a statement blasting the amendment.

“We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools,” said the statement by White House spokesman Jay Carney.

The Heritage Foundation, a think tank that usually attacks the Obama administration, agreed, saying the Amash amendment “would increase the risks of terrorist attacks by limiting the scope of court-ordered foreign intelligence collection.”

“As a matter of policy, the amendment is a blunt instrument that summarily terminates a program that the federal government, under two very different administrations, has thought vital,” a Heritage statement said.

The House later approved the defense bill, which spares the Pentagon from any sequester cuts next year.

DeLauro was among many Democrats voting against the bill because it would force deeper cuts in domestic programs.

“I am a strong supporter of the defense budget, including spending in this bill to support national security and Connecticut’s defense manufacturing base,” DeLauro said. “However I am not a supporter of making defense whole, so to speak, while shredding our domestic programs…”

 

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