Fitzpatrick and Schwartz discuss NSA

By Ted Bordelon

Wire Managing Editor

Two local members of Congress cast opposite votes on an amendment that would have cut funding from a National Security Agency (NSA) program that collects mass phone records from Americans.

Congresswoman and gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz (D-Montco) was the only Pennsylvania Democrat to vote against the measure, while Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) was one of four state Republicans to vote for it.

Fitzpatrick cited “concerns about the overreach of parts of the PATRIOT Act” as his reason for voting for the amendment in a statement following the vote.

The amendment, which was proposed by Justin Amash (R-Mich), was narrowly defeated, 205–217. Democrats voted for it, 111 to 83, while Republicans voted against it, 134 to 94.

According to Schwartz, the amendment lacked “balance.”

“I opposed Rep. Amash’s amendment because it did not achieve the critical balance between national security and civil liberties,” Schwartz said in a statement to the Wire. “Congress must engage in ongoing oversight and review of our national security activities so that we adequately protect both the security of our nation and the civil liberties of all Americans.”

Schwartz, along with more than 150 Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), signed a letter to the president following the vote calling for further examination of the NSA’s data-mining programs.

“I don’t know how the current program is ‘balanced,’” Amash’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Will Adams, said in a phone interview. “There’s a balance to strike but I can’t comprehend how the word ‘balance’ implies that we have an NSA program that collects everyone’s records related to every phone call that they make.”

Schwartz’s office declined to respond to Adams’ remarks, but Greg Vadala, Schwartz’s Chief of Staff, said that the Congresswoman was committed to both security and civil liberties.

“She believes strongly that Congress must ensure that America’s national security operations are conducted with stringent oversight, accountability and transparency,” Vadala said. “That’s why she joined with many of her fellow House Democrats to send a letter to President Obama, calling on him to work with Congress to ensure the appropriate balance between our national security operations and Americans’ civil liberties.”

Ted Bordelon can be reached at tbordelon@bsmphilly.com