House GOP leadership on Monday gave in to the demands of a small band of libertarian-minded members, allowing them to offer controversial amendments on the National Security Agency, Egypt and Syria.
Late Monday evening, the House Rules Committee made 100 amendments in order to the Defense spending bill, including three amendments that a bloc of Republicans insisted be made in order or else they would attempt to prevent the bill from coming to the floor.
Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash, a regular thorn in the side of leadership, and Kentucky GOP Rep. Thomas Massie led the contingent of conservatives that threatened to vote down the Republican rule on the floor unless certain amendments were approved for votes.
“We’ve conveyed to the whip team that we won’t vote for the rule if they don’t allow debate and votes,” Massie said July 19. “We don’t need all the amendments to be allowed. We need at least one substantial amendment on three things: Egypt, Syria and NSA.”
Amash's NSA amendment would prevent money from going to the agency's blanket collection of telephone call records, and Massie's two amendments would defund military operations in Syria and Egypt.
While Massie's Egypt amendment was made in order, his Syria one wasn't. However, a Trey Radel, R-Fla., amendment prohibiting funds for military action in Syria was made in order.
The lawmakers found that compromise acceptable.
An aide to one lawmaker in the group said leadership had used “every tool in the toolbox” to block the amendments, constructing numerous procedural roadblocks. The House Rules Committee noted, however, that it had worked with the lawmakers all last week on composing suitable legislative language.
The House Rules Committee also noted that, while Democrats complained the Defense appropriations bill was coming to the floor under a structured rule, the last time Democrats put a similar bill on the floor, they only made 15 amendments in order — paltry compared to Republicans' 100 amendments.
But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle will be subject to the difficult votes, and with the amendments made in order, the rule — and the Defense appropriations bill — should clear the House this week.