Vote Notes - H.R. 3180, the Intelligence Authorization Act
On Monday, I was one of but 10 Republicans to vote against H.R. 3180, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. As a result of our votes, the bill failed...but it is being brought back up again today. A little discussion…
Process matters. Big ideas, or those that directly affect our lives, deserve debate.
The bill was put up on Monday under what’s known as “suspension.” This expedites a bill’s passage to the floor and limits the normal inputs and debate that one sees...and should have seen in this bill. In exchange for the expedited process, the vote count must be higher. Instead of the normal 50% plus 1, bills under suspension require a ⅔ vote...and it was for this reason that the 10 votes mattered more than usual.
Our stopping the bill on Monday doesn’t end the debate, but it does cause the body to come back and actually give it the consideration and time that it deserved.
The bill authorizes funding for the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the NSA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and several other agencies within the intelligence community. A bill that affords agencies the capacity to monitor our lives and alter what we define as civil liberty is a bill that indeed deserves real consideration.
I remain concerned about the mass data collection still authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and I voted against the expansion of data collection in the 2016 bill. More significantly, Thomas Massie and I offered an amendment that would reign in this authority. I subsequently co-sponsored the Email Privacy Act, which would require a warrant for law enforcement to access your email. Unfortunately, nothing has been done by the intelligence community to step back from where they were in data collection when I voted against the 2016 bill. As a consequence, I will vote against this bill not just for the process reasons that caused me to vote against it on Monday, but for the policy considerations that have everything to do with what the Founding Fathers enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.
This is an important theme that we should all think on. Liberty means more than just our physical security and freedom of movement. It also means privacy and the civil liberty that comes with it as we each personally live what we believe it means to indeed live the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that our Founding Fathers promised. People may be quite creative and individualistic in their interpretations of what it means to pursue happiness, but unless they’re breaking a law or causing harm to another in the public sphere, we should be very deliberate about curtailing our federal government’s ability to eavesdrop on our lives. This bill does not do so based on the Section 702 language that we were not allowed to amend in this bill, and consequently I will vote no.