March 7, 2006 — -- Splitting along party lines, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted against an investigation of the president's warrantless domestic spying program. The decision dealt a blow to Democrats intent on uncovering more about the program, but senators also indicated they expected the White House to bow to congressional oversight on the matter.
Sens. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Olympia Snowe of Maine, moderate Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on the Judiciary Committee, have offered legislation to approve the spying program, but with the provision that it allow for oversight by a special, seven-member intelligence subcommittee, and that the existing Foreign Intelligence Security Act Court would review most of the warrantless wiretap requests.
The draft legislation would authorize the president's program in 45-day increments, and would require that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales justify each individual warrantless wiretap to both the FISA Court and new congressional subcommittees in both houses of Congress.
Hagel, who had been one of the most outspoken Republican critics of the program, hailed the draft legislation, saying, "We are finally reasserting congressional oversight."
Snowe said, "This sets a marker for judicial and legislative oversight."
Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., implied that the White House had agreed in principle to the deal after prodding from members of the committee. "This is an agreement we insisted upon and got," he told reporters after the vote. "This story has been in the news for 90 days. I worry about the diminished capacity of the program, even now."
But any agreement is in principle only. The White House was given an outline of the potential legislation only this afternoon.
Roberts has not endorsed the draft legislation but called it a good first step toward a legislative "fix" for the program, which he has supported all along.