By approving for debate several watered-down amendments on controversial issues, such as Rep. Radel's (R-FL) meaningless fund limitation on Syria, this rule will allow Members to placate constituents back home, who want no part of another Middle East war, while in effect doing nothing at all to stop the war train as it is rapidly leaving the station. As US involvement in the Syrian war escalates, as it inevitably will -- particularly with today's news that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have "approved" transfer of arms to the Syrian opposition -- Members will be able to return to their home districts with the political cover of having voted for an amendment on Syria even if it is empty. Few will notice.
The Rules Committee did approve debate on the Amash (R-MI), Conyers (D-MI), et al. amendment on NSA spying that:
"Ends authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. Bars the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215."It is a limited victory despite the best intentions of the authors, as Leadership is certain it will go down to defeat with the unintended (on the authors' part) consequence of giving the appearance of additional Congressional authorization for the programs. "You had your vote to limit NSA spying on Americans and it failed, the people have spoken, let's double up on the program."
Those who place their faith in the legislative process to curb executive branch abuses should pause to reflect on the widespread Congressional support for those very same executive branch abuses. We did not need Snowden to tell us that the NSA is spying on us -- Congress already authorized it when they voted overwhelmingly for the Patriot Act and the FISA Act amendments. Likewise, Congress supports a new war in Syria, US involvement in Egypt, more sanctions on Iran, and so on.
This game is fixed.
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