CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After a last-minute plea from President Obama, West Virginia's delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives split along party lines in a close, contentious vote Wednesday evening.
That, by itself, is barely newsworthy.
What's interesting is that it was Representatives Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley, both Republicans, who sided with Obama and Rep. Nick Rahall, a Democrat, who spurned the president.
The legislation, which failed by a closer-than-expected 12 votes, would have blocked the National Security Agency from collecting billions of phone records of American telephone calls.
The classified program, which recently came to light after disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, allows the NSA to collect phone numbers, locations and call durations from Verizon and other phone service providers.
The amendment would have ended blanket collection of phone data and allowed data collection only on persons under active investigation. It would not have affected foreign phone calls or the recently disclosed PRISM program, which collects mass amounts of email and Internet data from companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
Rahall said that Snowden's disclosures had caused him to change his mind.
"With the recent revelations about electronic eavesdropping by our nation's intelligence and law enforcement agencies, I have been hearing from my constituents who are understandably concerned about their privacy rights and civil liberties," Rahall said in a written statement.
"I think it's essential for the Congress to act as a check on the executive branch, whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats. I support congressional efforts to increase and strengthen oversight of intelligence gathering activities and believe steps should be taken to limit the collection of data that is not relevant to ongoing terrorist investigations," Rahall said.
The data collection programs were authorized by the 2001 Patriot Act. Rahall was one of only 66 representatives to vote against the Patriot Act. He also voted against its reauthorization in 2006, but then switched sides and voted for reauthorization in 2010.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Justin Amash, a second-term libertarian Republican, and Rep. John Conyers Jr., a 25-term liberal Democrat, made for some unusual alliances.
Capito and McKinley, in voting to continue the dragnet-style data collection, sided not only with Obama, but also with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Speaker John Boehner, who are rarely on the same side of anything.