Lawmakers who favor the NSA’s surveillance activities also made a public push against Amash’s amendment. Both the House and Senate Intelligence Committee leaders criticized the measure, while seven House GOP committee chairmen circulated a letter to lawmakers.
Supporters of Amash’s amendment had hoped that public outcry over the NSA’s surveillance activities would prompt lawmakers to curtail the secretive agency’s reach.
The amendment would have restricted the NSA from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect data on individuals not under investigation, which would essentially prevent the mass collection of phone records.
“We’re here to answer one question for the people we represent: Do we oppose the suspiciousness-less collection of every American’s phone records,” Amash said during debate on the measure.
Wednesday’s vote came after the White House and lawmakers who support the NSA’s surveillance activities launched a major offensive against Amash’s measure after it was granted a vote Monday evening.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement Wednesday against Amash’s amendment, saying it risked “dismantling an important intelligence tool.” And on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a rare evening statement announcing the White House’s opposition.
The offensive underlined the significance of Wednesday’s vote, which was the first time that Congress weighed in on the NSA’s spying programs since they were revealed by The Guardian and The Washington Post last month.
House passes Syria, Egypt amendments: The House voted Wednesday afternoon to restrict the use of funds in a 2014 defense spending bill on potential military action in Syria and Egypt.
Approval of the two amendments came after House Republicans initially resisted the idea of considering any language on Syria and Egypt. They feared it could make the spending bill controversial, and thus delay its enactment.
But while Republicans finally allowed votes on Syria and Egypt, it only allowed relatively non-controversial amendments that passed easily.
There had been tougher amendments on Syria that would have required congressional approval before weapons were given to the rebels, but those did not receive a vote.
The House also passed an amendment Wednesday that cut $3.5 billion from the 2014 Overseas Contingency Operations budget.
The Appropriations Committee had included $5 billion more than the Pentagon’s budget request for Afghan war funding, but the amendment from Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) cut the funding by $3.5 billion and moved the remaining $1.5 billion to the National Guard.
The measure passed in a narrow 215-206 vote, on the support of 38 Republicans and 177 Democrats.
The overall Defense spending bill was headed toward passage Wednesday evening.
DOD delays Egyptian fighter sale: Pentagon leaders are backing off plans to hand over American warplanes to Egypt as political unrest grips the country.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel informed Egyptian military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of the department's decision to delay initial deliveries of four F-16 fighters.
"Given the current situation in Egypt, we do not believe it is appropriate to move forward at this time with the delivery of F-16s," Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters on Wednesday.
That said, the Pentagon still anticipates completing the F-16 fighter sale to Egypt in the future, a Defense official told The Hill.
"It is our plan to continue delivering these jets in the future," the official said, adding that deliveries of "other defense articles," such as helicopters and other weapon systems to Egypt, will continue unimpeded.
The fighter delay announced Wednesday also provides additional time for Congress to decide on how to proceed with the current level of U.S. military support to Egypt, according to the Defense official.
The combustible political situation in Egypt has renewed calls by congressional Republicans to end U.S. military support to the country.
Earlier this month, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced legislation to end all military funding to Egypt.
His legislation was prompted in no small part to the administration's previous insistence to press ahead with the F-16 sale to Cairo and Obama's refusal to characterize former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's ouster as a military coup.
Psychological issues create concern over women in combat: How female soldiers mentally cope with the rigors of combat is creating more concern among Pentagon leaders than whether those troops can withstand the physical rigors of the battlefield.
U.S. military officials voiced those concerns and others to members of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee on Wednesday.
It was the first congressional hearing on women in combat since Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel officially lifted the ban on female soldiers joining infantry and other front line units in June.
Pentagon officials told members of the House defense subpanel that more of the military's concern lies in whether women soldiers can deal with the psychological toll of combat.
Those mental stressors are amplified when the discussion shifts from regular combat units to the smaller, specialized units under Special Operations Command.
Special operations teams are responsible for some of the most sensitive counterterrorism and combat operations conducted by U.S. armed forces.
That kind of dynamic demands a unique balance of physical and psychological readiness that is unusual among rank-and-file military personnel, Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, head of force development for Special Operations Command, said Wednesday.
When pressed by Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) on whether the addition of female soldiers into the Special Operations ranks would disrupt or destroy that kind of unit cohesion, Sacolick replied: "I don't know if that's going to be an issue at this point or not, but we're looking at it."
In Case You Missed It:
-- Clapper dives into NSA fight
-- House slashes war funds for Afghanistan
-- DOD denies slow-rolling Congress on East Coast missile shield
-- Lockheed profits soar amid sequester
-- Levin pushes back on Gillibrand sex assault bill
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