Key House Dem’s objections stall intel bill as deadline looms

Greg Nash

Objections from the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat are stalling efforts to pass a two-year intelligence authorization bill that would include provisions for election security and Russian aggression, sources tell The Hill.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) broke with other Gang of Eight members Friday by withholding his support on the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA), a senior GOP aide and two congressional sources told The Hill.

{mosads}The bill, which has bipartisan support, allows the House and Senate Intelligence committees to voice their priorities for the intelligence community.

“The lone person holding out is Schiff,” the senior GOP aide said, adding that the bill applies to authorizations for both 2018 and 2019. “It would be irresponsible to allow this law to lapse and we hope Schiff will end his hold-up of this bipartisan bill.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) did not directly name Schiff, but confirmed that one of the four intelligence committee leaders objects to the bill. He says this has caused delay of legislation that enables Congress to relay its views on Russian aggression and election security to the intelligence community.

“Three of the four leaders on the congressional intelligence committees signed off on a bipartisan bill that includes numerous compromises between the House and Senate, while protecting the priorities of both committees,” Burr told The Hill in a statement on Saturday, noting the legislation passed his Senate committee on a “rare, unanimous” vote.

“Unfortunately, some members continue to object to the bill, delaying important legislative provisions to strengthen our response to Russian aggression, protect our election security, and implement much-needed security clearance reforms, among other critical items,” Burr continued.

Schiff’s holdout comes amid a narrow window to pass the annual intelligence bill before the new fiscal year. Under the Congressional Budget Act, the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. The House has until Sept. 30 to complete any action on annual appropriation bills.

Schiff’s objection is tied to one paragraph in hundreds of pages of legislative text — specifically a paragraph in a classified portion of the bill, one congressional source who requested anonymity to discuss intelligence bill negotiations told The Hill. The source says the objection came after two weeks of negotiations.

The lawmakers had hoped to ride the IAA onto the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Act, the congressional source says, describing it as the best option for getting the intelligence bill passed. That option, however, may no longer be viable. The House and Senate reached an agreement on the reauthorization bill late Friday — a filing which the source says was expected to take place.

Although the intelligence community can continue to proceed with its business without the passing of the intelligence bill, Congress could lack a voice in policy that governs the intelligence community if the bill doesn’t pass.

“The administration will be able to operate independent of our opinion,” the congressional source said.

The congressional source, who believes Schiff wants to delay the bill’s passage until after the midterms, described his objections as self-defeating since Schiff’s concerns will persist if the bill does not pass.

A Democratic committee aide said in a statement that the House Intelligence Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee “are still in active discussions to clear the differences in our bill.”

“We are hopeful that we can reach agreement, and that Congress will pass an IAA this year,” the Democratic aide told The Hill. 

A congressional source in response said, “there was plenty of time to resolve this issue in the past few weeks.”

“They knew the train schedule and ignored it. Now all the trains have left the station,” the congressional source said.

The source noted that both Burr and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, worked to make the language more flexible for the California lawmaker, who continued to dig in his heels on the measure.

Warner’s office declined to comment on the matter.

Tags Adam Schiff Mark Warner Richard Burr
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