This was a vote on final passage of legislation authorizing annual funding for U.S. intelligence agencies. Such agencies include (among others) the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The funding levels provided by the bill for these agencies are unknown because their budgets are classified – meaning they are not available to the general public.
The bill did not contain two provisions, which were strongly favored by Republicans included in an earlier version of the legislation. The first of those provisions prohibited the use of intelligence funding to bring prisoners from Guantanamo [the detention facility where the U.S. government had held suspected terrorists] to the United States. The second prohibited the granting of Miranda rights [the rights that police officers must explain to criminal suspects in the United States, such as the “right to remain silent”] to suspected terrorists.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the chairman of the committee that drafted the bill, urged members to support it: “Authorization bills [bills that “authorize” money to be spent on certain programs – in the case, intelligence programs] are critical to the smooth functioning of the intelligence community. We face innovative and aggressive adversaries, and the intelligence community needs the flexibility to adapt. But the authorities and institutions of the intelligence community are, to a large extent, set by statute. Only acts of Congress--traditionally in the form of authorization bills--can give the community the tools it needs to keep America safe.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) also urged passage of the intelligence bill: “There is no higher responsibility than we have when we raise our hands in this Chamber [the House of Representatives] to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the laws thereof. Clearly, one of our major responsibilities is to protect America from adversaries, whether they be domestic or foreign, and in that process have an intelligence community that has the capability of ferreting out those who would harm this country and its people….”
Rep. Mac Thornberry urged opposition to the bill: “This bill does nothing to prevent Guantanamo detainees from being brought here to the mainland of the United States, and yet tomorrow, the end of the fiscal year, tomorrow, all of the existing statutory prohibitions on bringing those terrorists here to the mainland expire. This bill was an opportunity to do something about that, and yet it does nothing.”
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) also criticized the bill: “Tomorrow we are going to allow Guantanamo detainees to be transferred to the U.S.…It doesn't take a rocket scientist to say, That's an awful idea. And Americans say, ‘Don't do it.’ There's a better way. This bill rejects that notion and goes to the very heart of why Americans are concerned about the direction of how we pursue terrorism in these days and in the days ahead.”
The House passed the intelligence authorization bill by a vote of 244-181. 243 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “yea.” 172 Republicans and 9 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation authorizing annual funding for U.S. intelligence agencies. The Senate had already passed this legislation. Thus, House passage cleared the bill for President Obama’s signature.