Fiscal 2008 Intelligence authorization (H.R. 2082)/Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) motion to proceed into closed session to discuss classified provisions tucked into the legislation that benefit a particular interest, organization or locale
house Roll Call 328 May 10, 2007
This vote was on a motion by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to move the House into a secret session with the purpose of discussing earmarks in the fiscal 2008 Intelligence authorization bill. Earmarks are provisions tucked into legislation at the behest of individual lawmakers that benefit a particular interest, organization or locale.
The intelligence budget is classified, but it is estimated to be around $45 billion annually and includes money for the CIA, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. House leaders reported that this Intelligence budget was the largest in history.
Flake was upset because the text of the earmarks included in the Intelligence bill were not made available to lawmakers 72 hours in advance of the legislation coming to the floor, as required by a House rule adopted at the beginning of this Congress.
"We said that if you are going to have an earmark in a bill, or in a report, that you need to state that you do not have a financial interest in that earmark, and then you need to submit that earmark, or it has to be submitted with the report so that Members can actually see that and see that there is no financial interest, see if it has merit or warrant," Flake said. "This process is not being followed here."
Flake said he was initially told there were no earmarks in the legislation, only later to find out there was a list but it wasn't available until after the deadline to submit amendments to the bill - the only way a lawmaker could challenge a particular earmark.
"We cannot continue to do business like this," Flake said. "Members need not be reminded that Duke Cunningham now sits in prison because of earmarks he largely got in the intelligence process, in the Intelligence Committee. We cannot allow that to happen again." Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham was sentence to eight years in prison for bribery and corruption.
"And then we have the problem here in open session where you can't even challenge the earmark and talk about what the earmark is actually about because you are in open session and you might be talking about classified things," Flake said.
Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) said the Government Printing Office made an error in omitting the earmarks from the published version of the bill.
"Be that as it may, this committee followed the requirements of the House for each Member receiving an earmark to certify that neither he or she nor his or her spouse would benefit financially from any kind of action," Reyes said. "We complied with all the requirements, all the rules, and all the regulations.
Unsatisfied, Flake moved the House to be cleared of everyone except lawmakers. Republicans were unanimous in their support for the motion, and all but nine Democrats were opposed. Thus, on a mostly party-line vote of 207 to 217, the House rejected a motion to move the House into secret session to discuss classified earmarks, and the Intelligence authorization moved towards a final vote with the earmarks intact.
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