Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash is proving to be a worthy adversary against the Republican establishment and the White House when it comes to national security issues, and he seems to have no problem throwing his enthusiastic support behind causes to stop the NSA's clandestine spying programs, much to the chagrin of hawks on both sides of the aisle.
Last night Amash managed to gather enough votes in the Rules Committee to get 15 minutes worth of debate today on his amendment to the defense bill that would defund the NSA. The amendment that bears Amash's name seeks to curtail the NSA's authority to collect private call records and metadata on telephone customers in the U.S. – activity which was disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Amash has also been quite content to fight forces on both sides of the aisle on Twitter and to encourage citizens to inform the elected representatives in both houses what they think about the vote on this particular amendment.
A vote on the amendment is scheduled for later today as part of a $512.5 billion defense appropriations bill, which includes funding for intelligence agencies and for providing different types of aid to Egypt and Syria. In other words, the bill is filled with all kinds of contentious issues.
Critics of Amash say he is using a "bull-in-the-china shop" approach on this issue, and Republican chairmen are urging their colleagues to allow more time for the House Intelligence Committee to respond to changes to the NSA program.
"We are committed to assisting all of our colleagues in reviewing this program, and we will continue to develop additional protections," read a letter circulated Tuesday by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and five other full committee chairmen. "Any such changes ought to proceed through a regular legislative process so the effects can be understood and debated fully."
On Tuesday White House press secretary Jay Carney echoed those sentiments, calling the Amash approach "blunt" and "not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process."
Amash fired back with Twitter:
"#NSA’s unconstitutional spying on ALL Americans was ‘not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.’ It must be stopped now," read one response to the committee chairmen.
A second tweet from Amash took a shot at the White House:
"Pres Obama opposes my #NSA amendment, but American people overwhelmingly support it. Will your Rep stand with the WH or the Constitution?"
At the end of the day, the Rules Committee voted that it will allow 30 minutes of debate on the two amendments seeking to narrow the ability of the NSA to collect private data in the U.S. But it also limited the debate on aid to rebel forces in Syria to 20 minutes and excludes other Syria-related amendments – including one that would bar any aid until fully authorized by Congress.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops. Those looking to put pressure on their representatives concerning the NSA amendments can do so by visiting www.DefundtheNSA.com.