Senate approves Governmental Affairs overhaul

The Senate voted 79-6 Saturday to approve a resolution modifying the structure of several committees, including the Governmental Affairs Committee, to improve oversight of homeland security and intelligence issues.

In addition to overhauling the Senate Intelligence Committee by reducing the number of panel members from 17 to 15 and removing term limits, the resolution would also add an intelligence subcommittee to the Appropriations Committee and would change the Governmental Affairs Committee to a permanent homeland security committee.

The resolution was based on recommendations made by a bipartisan Senate working group led by Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"I applaud my colleagues for approving this critical reform, which will enable Congress to better monitor and support the executive agencies tasked with keeping America safe," McConnell said in a statement.

The resolution came under fire during debate Friday by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who charged that it did not do enough to change congressional oversight. McCain failed last week to amend the resolution to consolidate appropriations and authorization authority within the Senate intelligence committee - a move called for by the Sept. 11 commission.

"Have we embraced comprehensive change? No, we haven't. We haven't even embraced a modicum of change. We have said that the status quo is fine with us, and as far as the Senate is concerned, Sept. 11 never happened," McCain said.

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