|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 7.29.13
Monday, July 29, 2013 â€“
The Amash-Conyers Amendment
I regularly receive feedback from people across the Ninth District on a number of issues including the Second Amendmentâ€™s right to bear arms, coal and our nationâ€™s energy future, agriculture issues, etc. Recently, we have received many calls concerning massive National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs that have been collecting the phone records of American citizens under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
I too remain concerned by these programs, as are many of my colleagues from across the political spectrum. Debate on a recent Department of Defense appropriations bill became very interesting and impassioned when an amendment was introduced to stop the NSA from conducting blanket surveillance of all Americansâ€™ phone calls. This amendment was pushed by Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) and Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), the same Congressmen that introduced the Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act (LIBERT-E Act, H.R. 2399), which I have cosponsored.
Debate on the â€śAmash-Conyers Amendmentâ€ť was limited to seven and a half minutes per side. I was allotted thirty seconds of debate time during which I expressed my concerns about a Secret agency that deals with a Secret court that is overseen by a Secretive committee. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) also stood up in support, saying that this yearâ€™s report to the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Section 215 of the Patriot Act was only â€śeight sentences â€“ less than a full page.â€ť She continued by saying â€śto think that Congress has simple oversight of this program is simply incorrect.â€ť Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the principal author of the Patriot Act, also strongly supported the Amash-Conyers Amendment, and said â€śthe time has come to stopâ€ť what the NSA is doing.
My colleagues and I have been working to not only limit these surveillance programs, but also to get information on them and on the Secret courtâ€™s Secret opinions interpreting Section 215 of the Patriot Act. However, we have seen that this is easier said than done.
It is difficult to do my job as a Congressman and uphold my oath to defend the Constitution when getting access to the records necessary to do my job requires permission from a select small group of other Congressmen who meet in secret.
I firmly believe that what makes America great are our freedoms and liberties. To borrow from Benjamin Franklin, â€śThose who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.â€ť I believe we can protect Americans by collecting information on terrorists and other bad actors without sacrificing our fundamental freedoms.
Unfortunately, the Amash-Conyers Amendment was defeated in a vote of 205 â€“ 217. However, I am working with Congressman Amash and others from both sides of the aisle to gather information on these programs, protect Americansâ€™ rights, and defend the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Doing so will not be easy, but it is a fight I am willing to continue. I encourage each of you to stay informed on this issue.
â€śAn Elusive American Dreamâ€ť
The Associated Press wrote a piece using recent survey data indicating that four out of five American adults struggle with poverty and unemployment for some of their lives, â€śa sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.â€ť Their numbers indicate that this trend is on the rise, and that by 2030, â€śclose to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.â€ť Specifically mentioned in this piece is the Ninth Districtâ€™s own Buchanan County, described as â€śa declining coal regionâ€ť and with one resident saying â€śI think itâ€™s going to get worse.â€ť
I hope that President Obama saw this piece, and took note of the impact his anti-coal policies are having on Buchanan County, other coal-producing regions across the United States, and their surrounding communities. With Americaâ€™s great natural wealth, work ethic, and ingenuity, I believe there is no reason for the report of the Associated Press to be reality. But to make certain that America is strong economically, we have to have policies coming out of Washington that donâ€™t punish hard-working Americans who are trying to make better lives for themselves and their communities.
To better serve you, we have established monthly traveling staff office hours in each community. A complete schedule of Augustâ€™s traveling staff office hours can be found on my website, www.morgangriffith.house.gov.
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office by email, please visit my website at