To establish a new House intelligence oversight committee (H. Res. 35)/Motion to recommit
house Roll Call 12 Jan 09, 2007
This vote was a procedural vote on the creation of a new House oversight committee to handle intelligence matters. The 13-member Select Intelligence Oversight Committee will be a subcommittee of the Appropriations panel and be comprised of lawmakers from both the Appropriations and Intelligence committees. The subcommittee will review spending on spy activities and recommend spending levels to the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, which will then determine the actual funding.
Because creating a new committee is an internal House matter, this resolution needed neither approval by the Senate nor the president's signature.
The move to create the new subcommittee came out of the 9/11 Commission Report released a couple of years go that said, among other things, that "Congressional oversight for intelligence and counter terrorism is dysfunctional." The commission recommended creating a joint House-Senate committee in the model of the former Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, or else create a single committee in each chamber to handle both intelligence appropriations (spending) as well as what's known as authorization (drafting legislation to give federal agencies the authority to spend that money in specific ways).
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) pointed out during floor debate that the commission subsequently recommended creating a dedicated appropriations subcommittee dealing only with intelligence matters as a third option. That latter recommendation, he said, was exactly what the House set to accomplish with this resolution.
Republicans were upset at both the committee structure itself as well as the political process that created it, however. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) asked his colleagues on the House floor whether this resolution meets Congress' duty to effectively oversee the intelligence agencies and constitutional obligation to "provide for the common defense."
"Absolutely not" was his answer. He pointed out that the House already has too many subcommittees to which the intelligence agencies have to report, thereby gumming up the process and wasting precious energy on overlapping reporting duties. Furthermore, he said, the 9/11 Commission's recommendations were very clear in recommending either a joint House-Senate committee or a single authorizing and appropriations committee in each chamber dedicated to intelligence matters. "The proposal in front of us today does neither of those things that were recommended by the 9/11 Commission. In fact, it goes in completely the opposite direction," Dreier continued.
Republicans were further angered by the way members of the committee would be appointed exclusively by the Speaker instead of dividing the appointments between the Speaker and the Minority Leader, as is the practice for other committee assignments.
Democrats acknowledged that the resolution didn't completely follow the commission's guidelines but maintained that it nonetheless accomplished the commission's goals.
"At long last, we will have one panel the intelligence community cannot ignore," said Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.). Obey pointed out that the committee will have a "beefed up" investigative staff.
This vote was on a motion to recommit. A motion to recommit is a move to send the resolution back to committee for revision and represents the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a measure before a final up-or-down vote.
As is common on such procedural votes, the vote on the motion to recommit fell entirely on party lines. All 195 Republicans present voted for it, and all 232 Democrats present voted against it. The motion to recommit with instructions thus failed, and a resolution to create an appropriations subcommittee focusing on intelligence matters cleared a procedural hurdle and moved towards a final vote over Republican objections that it did not accomplish the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.
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