While the most talked-about news out of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday was the defeat of the so-called Amash amendment that would have defunded the NSA's massive data collection program, another amendment related to NSA spying was quietly passed overwhelmingly by lawmakers.
The Pompeo amendment (championed by Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas) passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 409-12. However, "no one is talking about it," Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) told TheBlaze on Thursday.
The amendment that passed is reportedly intended to "ensure none of the funds may be used by the NSA to target a U.S. person or acquire and store the content of a U.S. person's communications, including phone calls and e-mails."
In contrast, the Amash amendment sought to "end authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. It would also bar the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215."
Culberson told TheBlaze in a phone interview why he supported the Pompeo amendment over the more sweeping amendment authored by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.).
He argued the amendment properly requires that no funds can be used by the NSA to collect or store the content of American citizens' communications data. This includes phone calls and emails.
The Amash amendment would have prevented the NSA from using any funds to collect data on persons that are not under investigation.
"This would protect the data of terrorists who are operating sleeper cells in this country and make us vulnerable to future terrorist attacks," Culberson said of the Amash amendment, adding that it "would do nothing to reform the NSA surveillance program and would do nothing to ensure that the privacy of American citizens is protected."
The Pompeo amendment may not fully address privacy advocates' concerns about NSA spying, but those like Culberson feel it's a step in the right direction.
Though President Barack Obama previously assured the nation that "nobody is listening to your phone calls," revelations leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden suggest that the spy agency is, in fact, storing -- though not necessarily accessing the "content" of individuals', including Americans -- communications data.
Here is the exact phrasing of the Pompeo amendment (emphasis added):
None of funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Security Agency to-
(1) conduct an acquisition pursuant to section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 for the purpose of targeting a United States person; or
(2) acquire, monitor, or store the contents (as such term is defined in section 2510(8) of title 18, United States Code) of any electronic communication of a United States person from a provider of electronic communication services to the public pursuant to section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
Culberson was highly critical of Snowden, calling him an "idiot" and a "traitor." He also said President Obama and his administration have demonstrated an "utter disregard for the law."
"That's the way to reign in a lawless president," Culberson told TheBlaze, "by controlling the money."
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: U.S. Rep. Bill Young (R-FL) (R) talks with Subcommittee Chairman Rep. John Abney Culberson (R-TX) (L) after a hearing before the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee March 5, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Credit: Getty Images
The Texas congressman said lawmakers also intend to "rewrite" the Patriot Act sometime this fall and lamented the fact that he and other conservatives were fooled into voting for it the first time around. He said lawmakers were led to believe that the government would only be targeting "overseas foreign nationals whose phone calls were routed through the United States," not American citizens.
Culberson said Congress has an opportunity to correct some of the unconstitutional provisions found in the controversial legislation. The only thing Congress is allowed to in an appropriations bill, he explained, is turn the funding "on or off."
Pompeo on Wednesday defended the NSA's domestic surveillance program, saying the "metadata program is carefully designed with program layers of oversight by all three branches of government. This is precisely the way our government ought to operate: with input from Article I and Article 2 and Article III of the United States Constitution."
Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. Credit: AP
The Pompeo amendment was added to a $598.3 billion defense spending bill for 2014, which the House ended up passing, 315-109.
The overall defense spending bill would provide the Pentagon with $512.5 billion for weapons, personnel, aircraft and ships plus $85.8 billion for the war in Afghanistan for the next budget year.
The total, which is $5.1 billion below current spending, has drawn a veto threat from the White House, which argues that it would force the administration to cut education, health research and other domestic programs in order to boost spending for the Pentagon.
In a leap of faith, the bill assumes that Congress and the administration will resolve the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that have led the Pentagon to furlough workers and cut back on training. The bill projects spending in the next fiscal year at $28.1 billion above the so-called sequester level.
TheBlaze has reached out to Rep. Amash and will update this story should he or his office respond.
Here is the final roll call vote for the Pompeo amendment via the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives:
-- AYES 409 --
|Aderholt Alexander Amash Amodei Andrews Bachmann Bachus Barber Barr Barrow (GA) Barton Bass Benishek Bentivolio Bera (CA) Bilirakis Bishop (GA) Bishop (NY) Bishop (UT) Black Blackburn Blumenauer Bonamici Bonner Boustany Brady (PA) Brady (TX) Braley (IA) Bridenstine Brooks (AL) Brooks (IN) Broun (GA) Brown (FL) Brownley (CA) Buchanan Bucshon Burgess Butterfield Calvert Camp Cantor Capito Capps Cárdenas Carney Carson (IN) Carter Cartwright Cassidy Castor (FL) Castro (TX) Chabot Chaffetz Chu Cicilline Clarke Clay Cleaver Clyburn Coffman Cole Collins (GA) Collins (NY) Conaway Connolly Cook Cooper Costa Cotton Courtney Cramer Crawford Crenshaw Crowley Cuellar Culberson Cummings Daines Davis (CA) Davis, Danny Davis, Rodney DeFazio DeGette Delaney DeLauro DelBene Denham Dent DeSantis DesJarlais Deutch Diaz-Balart Dingell Doggett Doyle Duckworth Duffy Duncan (SC) Duncan (TN) Ellison Ellmers Engel Enyart Eshoo Esty Farenthold Farr Fattah Fincher Fitzpatrick Fleischmann Fleming Flores Forbes Fortenberry Foster Foxx Frankel (FL) Franks (AZ) Frelinghuysen Gabbard Gallego Garamendi Garcia Gardner Garrett Gerlach Gibbs Gibson Gingrey (GA) Gohmert Goodlatte Gosar Gowdy Granger Graves (GA) Graves (MO)||Grayson Green, Al Green, Gene Griffin (AR) Griffith (VA) Grimm Guthrie Gutiérrez Hahn Hall Hanabusa Hanna Harper Harris Hartzler Hastings (FL) Hastings (WA) Heck (NV) Heck (WA) Hensarling Higgins Himes Hinojosa Holding Hoyer Hudson Huelskamp Huffman Huizenga (MI) Hultgren Hunter Hurt Israel Issa Jackson Lee Jeffries Jenkins Johnson (GA) Johnson (OH) Johnson, E. B. Johnson, Sam Jones Jordan Joyce Kaptur Keating Kelly (IL) Kelly (PA) Kennedy Kildee Kilmer Kind King (IA) King (NY) Kingston Kinzinger (IL) Kirkpatrick Kline Kuster Labrador LaMalfa Lamborn Lance Langevin Lankford Larsen (WA) Larson (CT) Latham Latta Lee (CA) Levin Lewis Lipinski LoBiondo Loebsack Long Lowenthal Lowey Lucas Luetkemeyer Lujan Grisham (NM) Luján, Ben Ray (NM) Lummis Lynch Maffei Maloney, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Marchant Marino Massie Matheson Matsui McCarthy (CA) McCaul McClintock McCollum McDermott McGovern McHenry McIntyre McKeon McKinley McMorris Rodgers McNerney Meadows Meehan Meeks Meng Messer Mica Michaud Miller (FL) Miller (MI) Miller, Gary Miller, George Moore Moran Mullin Mulvaney Murphy (FL) Murphy (PA) Nadler Napolitano Neal Neugebauer Noem Nolan Nugent Nunes Nunnelee O'Rourke Olson Owens Palazzo Pascrell Pastor (AZ) Paulsen||Payne Pearce Pelosi Perlmutter Perry Peters (CA) Peters (MI) Peterson Petri Pingree (ME) Pittenger Pitts Pocan Poe (TX) Pompeo Posey Price (GA) Price (NC) Quigley Radel Rahall Reed Reichert Renacci Ribble Rice (SC) Richmond Rigell Roby Roe (TN) Rogers (AL) Rogers (KY) Rogers (MI) Rohrabacher Rooney Ros-Lehtinen Roskam Ross Rothfus Roybal-Allard Royce Ruiz Runyan Ruppersberger Rush Ryan (OH) Ryan (WI) Salmon Sánchez, Linda T. Sanchez, Loretta Sanford Sarbanes Scalise Schakowsky Schiff Schneider Schrader Schwartz Schweikert Scott (VA) Scott, Austin Scott, David Sensenbrenner Serrano Sessions Sewell (AL) Shea-Porter Sherman Shimkus Shuster Simpson Sinema Sires Slaughter Smith (MO) Smith (NE) Smith (NJ) Smith (TX) Smith (WA) Southerland Speier Stewart Stivers Stockman Stutzman Swalwell (CA) Takano Terry Thompson (CA) Thompson (MS) Thompson (PA) Thornberry Tiberi Tierney Tipton Titus Tonko Tsongas Turner Upton Valadao Van Hollen Vargas Veasey Vela Velázquez Visclosky Wagner Walberg Walden Walorski Walz Wasserman Schultz Waters Watt Waxman Weber (TX) Webster (FL) Welch Wenstrup Westmoreland Whitfield Williams Wilson (FL) Wilson (SC) Wittman Wolf Womack Woodall Yarmuth Yoder Yoho Young (AK) Young (FL) Young (IN)|
--- NOES 12 --
|Becerra Capuano Cohen Conyers||Edwards Fudge Grijalva Holt||Honda Lofgren Polis Rangel|
-- NOT VOTING 12 --
|Barletta Beatty Bustos Campbell||Coble Herrera Beutler Horsford McCarthy (NY)||Negrete McLeod Pallone Rokita Schock|