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The US House of Representatives on Wednesday narrowly beat back an effort to cut funding to National Security Agency programs that scoop up telephone data on millions of Americans.
The amendment, in the aftermath of disclosures about the sweeping US surveillance programs, was backed by an unlikely coalition of ideological opposites -- Tea Party Republicans and liberal Democrats -- but their bid fell short in a 205-217 vote.
The legislation, introduced by Michigan Republican Justin Amash, was opposed by the White House and several key senior members of Congress, including the heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
But it forced lawmakers to go on record on perhaps the most sensitive national security issue of the year: whether the NSA program that collects telephone "metadata" on innocent Americans breaches constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
Perhaps more importantly, it puts President Barack Obama on notice that there are deep bipartisan reservations about how the federal government conducts surveillance on its own people, the vast majority of whom have no terrorism connections.
"The government collects the phone records, without suspicion, of every single American in the United States," Amash said in tense floor debate moments before the vote.
Amash's move, he said, would limit such data collection and retention to those Americans who are the subject of a specific investigation.
Democrat Jim Moran voted in favor of the Amash amendment, saying on Twitter that it is "not perfect, but makes clear #NSA needs reforms to protect privacy of Americans."
Another amendment, which addressed US surveillance but was largely seen as having far less of an impact than the Amash legislation, passed with overwhelming support, 409-12.
Both amendments were part of a broader Department of Defense spending bill under consideration by the House.