Intel panel sends spy policy bill to House floor

The House Intelligence Committee unanimously passed the fiscal 2016 Intelligence Authorization Act on Thursday, sending the policy bill to the chamber floor.

The markup of the legislation occurred behind closed doors, but the bill passed through a voice vote without opposition, despite some reservations from Democrats.

“This bill will ensure that the intelligence community receives the resources it needs to continue protecting Americans from attack by a wide array of foreign adversaries,” committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in a statement on Thursday morning. “The legislation is a crucial component of the committee’s oversight responsibilities, and I look forward to swift consideration of the bill by the full House of Representatives.”

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Details of the legislation remain classified, but it would dictate spending by the CIA, National Security Agency and other spy branches to target terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.  

Among other provisions, the bill focuses money on stopping cyberattacks and insider threats and keeps up the fight against extremist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It also builds out the country’s security powers in outer space, requires a report on foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria every 60 days and funds “efforts to recover from” the leaks from Edward Snowden and others, the committee said.

The total funding is consistent with congressionally imposed funding caps, the committee added. 

However, Democrats are objecting to the measure’s use of short-term funding earmarked for “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO) to evade some of the limitations set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“We can’t have defense-related items enjoying OCO-relief when domestic programs—even those that contribute to our national and homeland security, let alone our children’s education and our social services— suffer arbitrary and harmful cuts,” top committee Democrat Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff uses Tiananmen anniversary to condemn Trump's response to protests Flynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation MORE (Calif.) said in his opening statement at the markup.

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Democratic lawmakers also opposed language in the bill that places new restrictions on closing the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Schiff tried but failed to attach an amendment eliminating those provisions.

Those two provisions are “red-lines” for Schiff he said. If they are not resolved by the time the bill gets a vote on the floor, he may oppose the legislation, he indicated.

Other Democratic amendments were blocked, lawmakers said in their minority view on the legislation. 

For instance Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) attempted to modify a provision that “unduly restricts” the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board — a small watchdog agency — from reviewing covert action.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) also was blocked from attaching an amendment to extend federal loan repayment programs to people at the National Labs.  

 

Updated with additional information at 1:21 p.m.