The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would have ended the NSA’s program of collecting telephone records and electronic communications data on Americans.
The House passed the appropriations bill, which included $600 billion for the Pentagon and the Afghanistan war, for fiscal year 2014.
The amendment, which was introduced by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., was rejected by a 217-205 vote. Neither support nor opposition for the amendment fell on party lines, with large amounts of members of both parties on each side. Ninety-four Republicans and 111 Democrats voted for the amendment, while 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats voted against it.
The NSA program, known as PRISM, was revealed last month by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the agency who is currently living in a Russian airport seeking asylum.
Opponents of PRISM claim that it violates the privacy of Americans.
“Government’s gone too far in the name of security,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who voted for Amash’s amendment. “Rein in government invasion, no more dragnet operations, get a specific warrant based on probable cause or stay out of our lives.”
“It is (about) whether they have the right to collect the data in the first place on every phone call on every American every day,” fellow Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton added. “In the NSA’s interpretation of that, relevant is all data, all the time. That’s simply wrong.”
Supporters contend that ending the program would jeopardize national security.
“This program has stopped dozens of terrorist attacks,” Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a former captain in the Army and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, said. “That means it has saved untold American lives. This amendment … does not limit the program, it does not modify it, it does not constrain the program, it ends the program. It blows it up.”
Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Democratic chairman of the committee, issued a statement after the vote, denying that the program violated Americans’ privacy and calling it a “crucial counterterrorism tool.”
Americans, however, remain opposed to PRISM. According to a new McClatchy-Marist poll, conducted from July 15-18, 56 percent of respondents believe that “the government had gone too far in its collection of personal data.”
This reflects what earlier polls have found, such as a Gallup poll from last month which revealed that 53 percent of respondents opposed the program. Of those opposed to it, 30 percent said that there are no circumstances when it would be acceptable while 21 percent said that there are certain circumstance in which it would be.