To establish a new House intelligence oversight committee (H. Res. 35)/On adoption of the resolution
house Roll Call 13 Jan 09, 2007
This was the final vote on a resolution to establish 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 panel 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.
"The Select Intelligence Oversight Panel will strengthen the oversight process by providing a mechanism for considering intelligence funding and the way appropriated funds are spent on intelligence activities from the combined perspectives of the Appropriations and Intelligence committees," Hastings said.
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." His answer was "absolutely not."
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.
Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) said such a move was unacceptable. "It means that our leader has no say in who is appointed to this task force or committee," he said, and added toward Hastings, "you would be up here screaming bloody murder if we tried to pull that stunt on you."
On the substance of the resolution, LaHood added to Dreier's remarks by saying, "The gentleman knows full well we need no more bureaucracy to bog down the intelligence community."
Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) further critiqued the resolution on the grounds that the 9/11 Commission specifically recommended that Congress enact a separate appropriations bill for the intelligence agencies instead of wrapping intelligence funding in a classified section of the Defense budget, which this measure would not do.
"As currently drafted, I have serious concerns that the proposed Intelligence Oversight Panel will have very little control over the actual funding decisions and will only succeed in confusing the process and adding to its complex bureaucracy," Castle added.
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.
In the end, eight Republicans broke rank and voted for the resolution. They joined all 231 Democrats present. The remaining 188 Republicans present voted "no." Thus, on a vote of 239-188, the House voted to create a new Appropriations subcommittee specifically dedicated to intelligence spending.
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