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Lawmakers fail to pass annual intel bill after key Dem objects

Lawmakers fail to pass annual intel bill after key Dem objects
© Greg Nash

Leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees failed to pass an annual intelligence authorization bill before the new fiscal year after the objections of a key House Democrat held up passage of the compromise bill.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIncoming N.J. Dem lawmaker says she won't vote for Pelosi as Speaker Whitaker saying he won’t cut Mueller funding: report Incoming Intelligence chair wants to release interviews to aid Mueller probe MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, would not agree to support the two-year Intelligence Authorization Act over concerns about a provision in the classified portion of the report, sources tell The Hill.

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The other leaders — Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate panel seeks interview with Steve Bannon, lawyer says Dems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel MORE (R-N.C.), Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerWarner 'disappointed' in how Trump replaced Sessions Warner expresses concerns over potential future election meddling The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to Paris as attorney general controversy intensifies MORE (D-Va.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOvernight Energy: Trump, California leaders clash over fires | Trump says oil prices should be 'much lower' | Zinke criticizes media coverage | Officials consider new truck pollution rule Trump, California battle over climate and cause of fires Nunes defeats Dem challenger in California House race MORE (R-Calif.) — were all on board with the legislation.

Schiff's objection means the intelligence panels won’t be able to articulate their priorities to the intelligence community during the fiscal 2018 year, losing important oversight on national security matters like cyberattacks and Russian aggression. 

Out of thousands of pages of legislative text, Schiff took issue with a paragraph in the classified annex of the report. According to one congressional source, this section is related to an oversight matter. Further details about the provision are not known.

While the committees can pass the 2019 Intelligence Authorization Act later on, the money for fiscal 2018 will be spent without the oversight of the intelligence committees.

Republicans accused Schiff of torching their chances to pass the compromise bill.

“We got jammed up. Schiff put the torpedo in it. We don’t have the vehicle to get it done. It is all Adam Schiff,” Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayLawmakers fail to pass annual intel bill after key Dem objects House Intel votes to release Russia transcripts Russia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems MORE (R-Texas), a House Intelligence Committee member, told The Hill. “It is a big deal.

“It means Congress does not have the kind of oversight authority in place to oversee the 17 [intelligence] agencies because we didn’t set any policy. They have got more of a freer hand and it makes our job more difficult to not have that in place,” Conaway added.

Conaway said the other intelligence leaders “worked to get [Schiff] to a 'yes.' And he’s a 'no.'”

While Schiff split from the other intelligence leaders, the California lawmaker had the support of other Democrats on the House committee.

“The Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee back Schiff strongly,” a Democratic congressional source told The Hill.

Schiff also told The Hill that there are “members of both the House and Senate” who share his stance and “who are in leadership positions.” He declined to identify those lawmakers.

The chances of the bill passing by Friday plummeted late last week after unsuccessful negotiations prevented the committees from attaching the Intelligence Authorization Act to the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Act (FAA) this week.

Conaway indicated that the FAA was the best option for getting the intelligence bill passed.

When asked about the fate of the bill on Tuesday, Schiff said “we are still in negotiations.”

But other Republicans said the window to pass the bill closed when they missed using the FAA as their vehicle. They said Schiff knew this was their best chance of passing the bill and still withheld his support.

“We aren’t going to do it between now and Friday,” Rep. Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartTrump attacks fuel GOP fears about losing suburban women GOP lawmaker: Trump comments about Stormy Daniels 'unpresidential' Lawmakers fail to pass annual intel bill after key Dem objects MORE (R-Utah), a House Intelligence member, told The Hill on Wednesday.

Schiff, who says he wants to get the bill passed, noted “the administration had no objection to my position in their statement of administrative position. So if others are serious about having an intel authorization act, then there is a clear pathway forward.”

A congressional source, however, said Schiff’s claims were “nothing but spin.”

“The intelligence community is opposed to it and he knows it,” the source added.

Burr told The Hill over the weekend that Schiff’s holdout delayed important legislation that pertains to Russian aggression and election security.

“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 told The Hill in a statement at the time.

One congressional source also blasted Schiff’s objections as self-defeating, stating that his concerns will persist if the bill isn’t passed.

Warner’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but congressional sources said he was frustrated by the unsuccessful back-and-forth negotiations he had with Schiff over the disputed provision.

Warner represents a state that houses many intelligence agencies and officials.