Breaking down the NSA phone-tracking vote in the House

July 25, 2013

It's rare that the most liberal and conservative members of the House find agreement on an issue.


Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

But the House voted late Wednesday on an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill that would have restricted the National Security Agency's telephone-tracking surveillance program — and the vote found several key lawmakers in rare accord.

For example, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a 33-year-old libertarian who often bucks GOP leadership, and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), an 84-year old liberal stalwart and the chamber’s second longest-serving member, joined forces as lead sponsors of the proposal. They voted for the plan, but their Wolverine State colleague, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), was one of the amendment's most vocal opponents.

So what was the final vote on the amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill? Here's a quick breakdown:

Final vote: 217 to 205

How many Republicans voted for the amendment?: 94.

Among those voting yes were Amash and several other outspoken conservatives, including all 10 members of the "No! Caucus," as tracked on "The Fix's Complete Guide to Understanding House Republicans." Also voting for the amendment were Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), who chairs the House Republican Conference and is fourth-ranking in leadership; Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee; and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Wis.), one of the original authors of the Patriot Act.

How many Republicans voted against the amendment?: 134.

"No" votes included a rare vote by Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio), who as head of the House isn't required to vote on legislation. He was joined by his deputies, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). They were joined by several key committee chairmen: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rogers, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon (Calif.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Va.), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (Tex.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.). McCaul and at least two other former federal prosecutors, Reps. Susan Brooks (Ind.) and Patrick Meehan (Pa.), also voted no.

How many Democrats voted for the amendment?: 111.

Democratic "yes" votes were led by Conyers, a lead co-sponsor, and Rep. John Dingell (Mich.), the longest-serving House lawmaker. They were joined by, among others, Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), who chairs the House Democratic Conference; Rep. Bruce Braley (Iowa), who is running for Iowa's open U.S. Senate seat; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), a U.S. military veteran who served in Iraq and has emerged as a new voice on national security issues; and sizable majorities of the Democratic delegations from New York and California.

How many Democrats voted against the amendment?: 83.

The Democratic "no" votes were led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), who were joined by moderate Democrats, including Reps. Ron Barber (Ariz.), John Barrow (Ga.) and Jim Matheson (Utah). Two potential House Democratic leaders, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (Md.), also voted no.

Who didn't vote?: 12 lawmakers, including Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), who is a member of the House GOP Whip Team, and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who is running in the Democratic primary for the New Jersey U.S. Senate seat. (One of Pallone's primary opponents, Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), voted for the amendment.)

Votes Notes:  Who would have thought that Amash and Conyers — separated by 51 years in age and poles apart on most political issues — could band together and earn nearly enough votes to win the day?

But both men enjoy the respect and wide following of their like-minded partisan colleagues, proving that when the chamber's most conservative and most liberal members find agreement, they can stitch together a sizable caucus. (Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) jokingly called the effort the "Wing Nut Coalition" on Wednesday and anointed Amash "Chief Wing Nut.")

And yet, who would have thought that such an issue would find Boehner and Pelosi, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and the chairmen of the two House campaign committees — Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.) — voting together in opposition?

Also of note: In the closely-watched U.S. Senate GOP primary in Georgia, Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) voted for the amendment, while Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) voted against it.

This item has been updated to include Holt and Kingston's votes.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
Comments
Show Comments

politics

the-fix

Most Read Politics
Next Story
Sean Sullivan · July 25, 2013