A controversy had developed about whether the CIA had accurately advised House Speaker Pelosi about its use of inappropriate interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, during her previous service as the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. The CIA said that it had kept her fully advised about the use of these techniques. Pelosi had publicly claimed that she was never told that these techniques were being used, challenged the truthfulness of what she and other congressional leaders were told by CIA officials about the techniques, and accused the CIA of lying. The CIA claimed that it does not lie to Congress. In response to these events, the House Republican minority had proposed a formal investigation into the matter.
Rep Bishop (R-UT) had raised a “question of the privileges of the House” regarding the matter, and offered a resolution relating to it. That resolution would require a bipartisan subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee “to review and verify the accuracy of the Speaker's (relevant) public statements” about the matter and report its finding within sixty days. Under House rules, a question of the privileges of the House resolution can relate to the integrity of House proceedings and questions relating to the conduct of Members.
Bishop said that, if there had been a pattern of “misconceptions (and) misinformation that has been given to the House of Representatives by an agency of government, that is an untenable and improper situation to have; and it is imperative that we try to find the truth of that matter, to make sure that if it has happened, it never happens again.” He claimed that his only point in offering the resolution was to establish a process whereby the truth regarding this issue could be identified, and to enable the House to learn whether federal agencies have engaged in a pattern of misleading the House. Bishop also said that such an investigation would “safeguard the reputation of the House (because) . . . it is imperative to reconcile as soon as possible the . . . contradictory statements by Speaker Pelosi and CIA Director Panetta.
The Democratic majority did not favor the resolution to appoint a committee to investigate the matter. They believed that the resolution was an effort by the Republicans to embarrass Speaker Pelosi, and that the Republicans hoped an investigation would reveal Pelosi had been informed of the interrogation techniques the CIA was employing and did not object to them.
The Chair ruled that the Bishop resolution was not privileged because it “is not confined to questions of the privileges of the House”. That ruling was based on the fact that the resolution proposed to direct a subcommittee of the Intelligence Committee “‘to review and verify the accuracy of’ certain public statements of the Speaker concerning communications to the Congress from an element of the executive branch. Such a review necessarily would include an evaluation not only of the statements of the Speaker but also of the executive communications to which those statements related. Thus, the review necessarily would involve an evaluation of the oversight regime that formed the context for those communications” and this would exclude it from being exclusively a matter of the privileges of the House.
Rep. Bishop appealed the ruling of the Chair. An appeal of a ruling can be voted on by the House. Before that could occur, Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD), who is second in seniority to Speaker Pelosi, moved to table (kill) the appeal. The effect of tabling it would be to end consideration of the appeal of the ruling, which would effectively end any consideration of Rep. Bishop’s resolution calling for a committee to investigate the Pelosi-CIA disagreement.
The motion to table (kill) the appeal passed by a vote of 237-184. Two hundred and thirty-two Democrats and five Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and fifteen Democrats noted “nay”. As a result, the House ended consideration of the resolution to appoint a committee to investigate the Pelosi-CIA disagreement.