Rep. Mark Meadows tells Newsmax TV that his vote would be to cancel statutory authority for the National Security Agency's massive surveillance programs because "the Constitution has served us well."
"It's something that doesn’t need to be eroded," the North Carolina Republican tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. "What we've got to make sure of is that our constitutional rights are preserved, that our expectation of privacy is one that is preserved — and balance that certainly with national security."
On Wednesday, a divided House narrowly voted to continue the NSA's ability to collect vast amounts of phone records from hundreds of millions of Americans. In a 217-205 vote, the House rejected an effort to end the program's authority.
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GOP Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan had challenged the program, saying it was an indiscriminate collection of records. He said his amendment sought to rein in the NSA's blanket authority.
Amash's challenge to the NSA phone surveillance program prompted rare lobbying on Capitol Hill by Army Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, who urged both Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday to reject the measure.
In addition, seven Republican committee chairmen issued a similar plea in a widely circulated letter to their colleagues.
Even the White House weighed in on the issue, with Press Secretary Jay Carney saying late Tuesday the amendment would "hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community's counterterrorism tools."
The proposed amendment also brought together an unlikely coalition of libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats, who said the NSA program amounts to unfettered domestic spying on Americans.
The Wednesday vote was the first time Congress has addressed the issue since former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked documents that revealed the agency had collected telephone records, while a second NSA program forced major Internet companies to turn over contents of communications to the government.
Meadows tells Newsmax that was leaning toward endorsing Amash's amendment.
"Most of my people back home have really said that they want me to vote against it," he said. "We're leaning that way at this point — and I'm a representative of the people. Ultimately, it's the people back home that we have to represent and vote the way that they want it. It's not my vote. It's theirs."
Meadows, 53, a first-term congressman, sits on three major House committees — Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Government Reform, and Transportation and Infrastructure. He is also among several House Republicans who are leading the effort to defund the implementation of Obamacare into the next fiscal year.
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is leading the effort in the Senate.
"The American people are behind us," Meadows tells Newsmax. "We know that Obamacare truthfully is one of the greatest threats to businesses and families across our country. We've got to do all we can to make sure that it doesn't get implemented and that we find something that really works — that's patient-centered."
He said he realizes that defunding President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement risks shutting down the government come Oct. 1.
"The only one really talking about shutting down the government right now is the president," Meadows said. "We're talking about trying to make sure that we are responsible and that we listen to the American people and we do what they want us to do.
"It's really a unanimous approach here on the House side of things that we see the devastating cost of Obamacare. We see that it's actually not going to be covering as many people as they originally thought. Some 27 million people will still be uninsured, so what comes next? Is it Obamacare 2?
"We're not ready. It’s not fair to the American people — and we need to do all that we can to make sure that the American people are represented."
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