This was a vote on a resolution outlining the terms for debate on legislation authorizing funding for U.S. intelligence agencies. The intelligence budget -- which is classified -- includes funding for the CIA, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The bill also creates a new position of Inspector General to exercise independent oversight over the intelligence community.
The Obama administration had threatened to veto the bill over a provision requiring intelligence agencies to brief all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees on highly sensitive matters. Such briefings have historically been restricted to the so-called "Gang go Eight," which includes: the chairmen of the intelligence committees; the ranking members from the minority party on those committees; the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader; and the House and Senate minority leaders. The Obama administration contended the House bill would "impede the smooth and efficient functioning of the intelligence community…."
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) argued the bill would institute some long-overdue reforms: "As we have seen, the intelligence community is in dire need of independent oversight. Sadly, when we created the Director of National Intelligence, we did not create an independent Inspector General. This bill would remedy that flaw by making clear that the Inspector General does not serve at the whim of the Director of National Intelligence and also has an independent responsibility to keep Congress informed. Some of my colleagues on the other aisle have argued against the creation of a new Inspector General. I would respectfully disagree with their assessment. It is clear that this provision will help to streamline and coordinate oversight. This bill also contains a provision in the manager's amendment providing sensible reforms to the Gang of Eight process. As vice chairman of the committee, I have seen that process abused in the past, and I am glad that we are taking a careful step towards reform. I believe that the administration has a statutory and constitutional duty to keep members of the Intelligence Committee, all members of the Intelligence Committee, fully informed on certain intelligence matters. Therefore, by reforming this process, the bill enhances transparency and bolsters Congress' capacity to conduct important oversight."
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) criticized the rule as overly restrictive, and contended the bill was outdated. He also raised the prospect of a presidential veto: “Now is the time to take, Mr. Speaker, these new insights and reform our intelligence agencies and policies to better protect our homeland and the American people, and that has to remain the top priority. That is where all of the attention should be focused. And yet, inexplicably, we are considering a bill today that is nearly 8 months old. This legislation was reported out of committee in June of last year. It was written before any of these recent attacks and attempted attacks took place, before any of these new revelations of flaws in our system and before any analysis was conducted on how to fix them. Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the Democratic majority's decision to bring up this hopelessly outdated bill is made all the more inexplicable by the fact that it was known to be a seriously flawed bill even back in June when it was being finalized. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Obama administration released a scathing criticism of this legislation and even issued a veto threat."
The House agreed to the resolution by a vote of 237-176. 237 Democrats voted "yea." All 166 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House proceeded to floor debate on legislation authorizing funding for U.S. intelligence agencies.