Pro-Defense Lawmakers Vote Against NSA. Would They Vote Against Your Program, Too?

Final vote tally on Wednesday's House amendment that would have de-funded a controversial NSA anti-terrorism program. (Staff image via C-SPAN via YouTube)

For political junkies, this will be the most interesting thing you read all day. For members of the defense-industrial-congressional complex, it might just be the most troubling thing you read all day.

The vote breakdown of Wednesday evening’s dramatic vote on an amendment offered by upstart tea party GOP Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan that could have thrown a legislative monkey wrench into surveillance programs NSA and White House officials say are crucial to the war against al-Qaida is fascinating.

For the most part, it shows coalition of tea party libertarian Republicans, concerned with individual privacy, joining liberal Democrats, suspicious of America’s national security machine, to nearly pass Amash’s measure. But a closer look might give members of Washington’s national security community, including defense contractors, pause.

That’s because many of the names voting “yay” will be very familiar to Intercepts readers. Some of you likely have met, broken bread, or even shared a cocktail with these members of the House Armed Services Committee and House Appropriations Defense subcommittee.

That’s right, defense-sector member, around a dozen of your own voted to essentially kill what your bosses claim is one of the most effective anti-terrorism tools. Sure, re-election politics were at play in some decisions to vote in the affirmative. But times clearly are changing.

Voting to end the NSA program were HASC Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Ranking Member Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., and senior HAC-D member Jim Moran, D-Va. Defense-sector stalwarts, both.

Joining them were veteran House members, both with seats on the chamber’s defense panels, GOP Reps. Walter Jones of North Carolina and Jack Kingston of Georgia. More-recent additions to the lower chamber and HASC also voted “yay,” including Reps. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Mike Coffman, R-Colo.

Congress makes laws, but for the defense and national security sector, how it exercises its constitutional power of the purse typically is a more pressing concern. That’s why the “yay” votes by Moran, Kingston, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., should catch your attention. Each is a member of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee.

All of this begs the question: If these HASC and HAC-D members — all loyal members of the defense-industrial-congressional complex — are willing to stop funding such a crucial program aimed at detecting al-Qaida plots, what won’t they vote to kill? How about your program?

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett