Looking To Climb The Ladder? Which Ambitious Politicians Voted For And Against The Bill To Curb Domestic Spying?
Wednesday night we looked at some of the amendments to the Pentagon spending bill. Today, let's just single out the one that most people are talking about, Justin Amash's and John Conyer's amendment that attempted to protect the 4th Amendment by limiting the ability of the government and its agents to spy on Americans without warrants and without probable cause. The amendment failed-- though narrowly-- 205-217. The leadership of both parties whipped frantically-- even desperately-- to defeat the amendment.
Boehner, who, like most Speakers, almost never votes, voted against it Wednesday. So did his whole senior team: Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Greg Walden, Dave Camp, Jeb Hensarling, Fred Upton, Michael McCaul, Bob Goodlatte, Darrell Issa, Tom Cole, Jim Lankford, Pete Sessions, John Kline, Buck McKeon, Mike Rogers. Most of the Democratic leaders voted with their GOP colleagues-- Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Steve Israel, Chis Van Hollen. The Democrats in leadership who voted with Amash and Conyers were Xavier Becerra and Jim Clyburn.
But now let's look at the Members from both parties who are running for higher office now. First the YES votes-- Members trying to appeal in a more populist direction:
• Bruce Braley (D-IA)- SenateAnd now the NO votes-- Members happily wrapping themselves in the mantle of the Establishment and the Security State:
• Paul Broun (R-GA)- Senate
• Steve Daines (R-MT)- Senate
• Rush Holt (D-NJ)- Senate
• Jack Kingston (R-GA)- Senate
• Mike Michaud (D-ME)- Governor
• Shelley Capito (R-WV)- SenateIt's worth reading Glenn Greenwald's analysis of the vote in The Guardian when trying to figure out the meaning of the yes and the no votes from the ambitious politicians above.
• Tom Cotton (R-AR)- Senate
• Bill Foster (D-IL)- Senate
• Phil Gingrey (R-GA)- Senate
• Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI)- Senate
• Peter King (R-NY)- President
• Gary Peters (D-MI)- Senate
• Paul Ryan (R-WI)- President
• Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)- Governor
One of the worst myths Democratic partisans love to tell themselves-- and everyone else-- is that the GOP refuses to support President Obama no matter what he does. Like its close cousin-- the massively deceitful inside-DC grievance that the two parties refuse to cooperate on anything-- it's hard to overstate how false this Democratic myth is. When it comes to foreign policy, war, assassinations, drones, surveillance, secrecy, and civil liberties, President Obama's most stalwart, enthusiastic defenders are often found among the most radical precincts of the Republican Party.Hanabusa, Peters, Schwartz... not the kind of Democrats who deserve any kind of support. Peters and Schwartz are running against even worse Republicans. Hanabusa is running against a stalwart liberal, Senator Brian Schatz.
...The amendment yesterday was defeated. But it lost by only 12 votes: 205-217. Given that the amendment sought to de-fund a major domestic surveillance program of the NSA, the very close vote was nothing short of shocking. In fact, in the post-9/11 world, amendments like this, which directly challenge the Surveillance and National Security States, almost never get votes at all. That the GOP House Leadership was forced to allow it to reach the floor was a sign of how much things have changed over the last seven weeks.
More significant than the closeness of the vote was its breakdown. A majority of House Democrats supported the Amash/Conyers amendment, while a majority of Republicans voted against it.
House Speaker John Boehner saved the Obama White House by voting against it and ensuring that his top leadership whipped against it. As the New York Times put it in its account of yesterday's vote:
Conservative Republicans leery of what they see as Obama administration abuses of power teamed up with liberal Democrats long opposed to intrusive intelligence programs. The Obama administration made common cause with the House Republican leadership to try to block it.In reality, the fate of the amendment was sealed when the Obama White House on Monday night announced its vehement opposition to it, and then sent NSA officials to the House to scare members that barring the NSA from collecting all phone records of all Americans would Help The Terrorists™.
...Remember when Democrats used to object so earnestly when Dick Cheney would scream "The Terrorists!" every time someone tried to rein in the National Security State just a bit and so modestly protect basic civil liberties? How well they have learned: now, a bill to ban the government from collecting the telephone records of all Americans, while expressly allowing it to collect the records of anyone for whom there is evidence of wrongdoing, is-- in the language of the House Democratic Leadership-- a bill to Protect The Terrorists.
None of this should be surprising. Remember: this is the same Nancy Pelosi who spent years during the Bush administration pretending to be a vehement opponent of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program after it was revealed by the New York Times, even though (just as was true of the Bush torture program) she was secretly briefed on it many years earlier when it was first implemented... [T]he history of Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi isn't one of opposition to mass NSA spying when Bush was in office, only to change positions now that Obama is. The history is of pretend opposition-- of deceiving their supporters by feigning opposition-- while actually supporting it.
But the most notable aspect of yesterday's events was the debate on the House floor. The most vocal defenders of the Obama White House's position were Rep. Mike Rogers, the very hawkish GOP Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Echoing the Democratic House leadership, Bachmann repeatedly warned that NSA bulk spying was necessary to stop "Islamic jihadists," and she attacked Republicans who supported de-funding for rendering the nation vulnerable to The Terrorists.
Meanwhile, Amash led the debate against the NSA program and repeatedly assigned time to many of the House's most iconic liberals to condemn in the harshest terms the NSA program defended by the Obama White House. Conyers repeatedly stood to denounce the NSA program as illegal, unconstitutional and extremist. Manhattan's Jerry Nadler said that "no administration should be permitted to operate beyond the law, as they've been doing." Newly elected Democrat Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an Iraq War combat veteran considered a rising star in her party, said that she could not in good conscience take a single dollar from taxpayers to fund programs that infringe on exactly those constitutional rights our troops (such as herself) have risked their lives for; she told me after the vote, by Twitter direct message, that the "battle [was] lost today but war not over. We will continue to press on this issue."
In between these denunciations of the Obama NSA from House liberals, some of the most conservative members of the House stood to read from the Fourth Amendment. Perhaps the most amazing moment came when GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner-- the prime author of the Patriot Act back in 2001 and a long-time defender of War on Terror policies under both Bush and Obama-- stood up to say that the NSA's domestic bulk spying far exceeds the bounds of the law he wrote as well as his belief in the proper limits of domestic surveillance, and announced his support for Amash/Conyers. Sensenbrenner was then joined in voting to de-fund the NSA program by House liberals such as Barbara Lee, Rush Holt, James Clyburn, Nydia Velázquez, Alan Grayson, and Keith Ellison.
...[T]he only defenders of the NSA at this point are the decaying establishment leadership of both political parties whose allegiance is to the sprawling permanent power faction in Washington and the private industry that owns and controls it. They're aligned against long-time liberals, the new breed of small government conservatives, the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, many of their own members, and increasingly the American people, who have grown tired of, and immune to, the relentless fear-mongering.
The sooner the myth of "intractable partisan warfare" is dispelled, the better. The establishment leadership of the two parties collaborate on far more than they fight. That is a basic truth that needs to be understood. As John Boehner joined with Nancy Pelosi, as Eric Cantor whipped support for the Obama White House, as Michele Bachmann and Peter King stood with Steny Hoyer to attack NSA critics as Terrorist-Lovers, yesterday was a significant step toward accomplishing that.