Titus, Heck defend NSA surveillance in House vote

WASHINGTON — Southern Nevada lawmakers cited potential terrorist threats to the nation generally and Las Vegas specifically as reasons they voted Wednesday to allow the government to continue collecting phone records from millions of Americans.

Reps. Dina Titus, a Democrat, and Joe Heck, a Republican, found themselves on the same side as the House debated and then defeated an amendment to cut off funding for the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance program.

The amendment by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., was defeated, 205-217. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., voted to curb the NSA program. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., is in Las Vegas recovering from heart surgery and did not vote.

Titus said afterward that she was mindful that there are individuals and groups “who seek to do us harm, both at home and abroad.

“Las Vegas, one of the most famous cities in the world with over 40 million visitors a year, is consistently noted as a potential location for a terrorist attack.”

The Amash amendment, Titus said, was a “blunt attempt to eliminate a critical intelligence capability.” She said she preferred, as does President Barack Obama, a “careful and thorough examination of such programs.”

Heck, who sits on the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, has access to inside information about U.S. intelligence collection against terrorists, and how it is weighed against the constitutional rights of citizens, his spokesman Greg Lemon noted.

The Amash amendment would have eliminated Section 215 of the Patriot Act, “which we know has thwarted several terrorist plots against the U.S.,” Lemon said in an emailed statement.

“Congressman Heck believes these programs are critical to maintaining our national security,” Lemon said.

Amodei had no immediate comment after the vote.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.