Maryland Eighth District Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) on Wednesday voted against a Defense Department budget amendment that would have restricted large scale NSA phone surveillance made public by Edward Snowden’s leaks last month.
The amendment was voted down by a 217-205 count and had Democrats and Republicans voting against members of their own parties.
Maryland’s House delegation was evenly split — four voted for the amendment and four, including Van Hollen, voted against it:
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Dist. 7) Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Dist. 4) Rep. Andy Harris (R-Dist. 1) Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Dist. 3)
Rep. John Delaney (D-Dist. 6) Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Dist. 2) Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8)
President Barack Obama (D) opposed the amendment. So did House speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), a frequent target of criticism from Van Hollen.
Van Hollen did not make a statement on his vote. Delaney provided the following in a press release:
In considering the Amash amendment, I do not believe that it represents the best approach to this critical national security topic. Oversight and smart reform deserve full deliberation and consideration. Unfortunately, this was a hurried debate on truly sweeping changes, via an amendment to the defense appropriations bill. Such an approach does not do justice to the seriousness of the issue, for either side. The surveillance programs administered by the NSA and other agencies raise serious and troubling constitutional questions that need to be resolved. With new technologies emerging each day, we need to continually revisit our government practices. Our system of government has checks in place and Congress has an important oversight role. We should continue to be vigilant, ensuring that our constitutional rights are protected and I hope we have a serious debate about the future of this program.