House GOP conferees to reject latest Senate intelligence offer
House Republican conferees working on a sweeping intelligence overhaul bill will tell Senate negotiators today they oppose most of the Senate's latest offer, which they received Monday afternoon.
The House response will "systematically and categorically explain" how the Senate proposal does not meet the House's position, one House GOP aide said. Another Republican aide said the initial reaction from House conference committee staff is at best lukewarm."At first glance, while the Senate offer addresses key provisions, such as the top-line budget number, many of the other items appear to be superficial modifications that don't strike at the heart of the House bill," the aide said.
The biggest obstacle between the two sides is over whether the Defense secretary or a new national intelligence director should have authority to execute the budget for the Pentagon's intelligence assets.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., with the Pentagon's backing, strongly objects to the Senate's latest offer to give the NID "exclusive" authority over the funding. Hunter's spokesman said the House would not budge from its position that the Defense secretary should have the day-to-day authority over funding to protect soldiers in combat.
Hunter, writing Tuesday in an opinion piece for USA Today, said the Senate's position would "cut the 'lifeline' by putting a civilian agency head in Washington directly over the combat-support agencies that feed vital battlefield information to our troops."
Senate conferees say they made a significant concession by agreeing to channel funds through the Pentagon by retaining the security classification of the top-line figure. And Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Collins said Monday that the Senate's position giving the NID "exclusive" budget authority is supported by the White House.
House aides complained Tuesday that the Senate offer did not address concessions by House conferees Oct. 29 on contentious immigration, law enforcement and border security provisions.
The House dropped death penalty language for several terrorism-related crimes and language on expeditiously deporting convicted criminals and terrorists. The House also reduced mandatory jail time on several provisions.
Indeed, a summary of the Senate's proposal does not mention these House concessions. But the Senate did address agreements on providing advanced explosive detection equipment at airports, improving passenger screening and air cargo security, increasing the number of border patrol agents and requiring U.S. citizens to show a passport to re-enter the country from "Western Hemisphere" areas such as the Caribbean.
Senate conferees also agreed to House provisions on international diplomacy and funding for fire fighters, police officers and other "first responders."
A House aide said conferees continue to disagree over which federal department should establish national standards for drivers' licenses and birth certificates. They also remain split over how much authority to give an independent civil liberties board.