- The Washington Times
Friday, May 22, 2009

House Democrats on Thursday blocked a Republican attempt to force Speaker Nancy Pelosi to document her charge that the CIA lied to Congress about interrogation methods used by the Bush administration against terror suspects and other matters.

Leveraging their substantial majority, Democrats used a parliamentary motion to turn back a Republican resolution calling for a bipartisan panel to investigate the California Democrat’s accusations last week that CIA employees “mislead us all the time.”

The House voted 252-172 on the motion to block the inquiry, with all 250 Democrats who voted joined by two Republicans in support of Mrs. Pelosi.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, who made the parliamentary move, called the Republican resolution an example of “the politics of personal destruction.”

“This is a serious matter, but it’s not being treated seriously. It’s being treated politically by the minority party,” said the Maryland Democrat, Mrs. Pelosi’s top deputy.

He pointed to times in recent years when top Republicans in Congress have questioned the veracity of information the CIA provided.

Still, Republicans sensed an opening and Republican Party leaders have repeatedly demanded the speaker back up the claims she leveled last week.

“The speaker is the second in line for the presidency, and the weight of the allegations against America’s top foreign intelligence agency makes this bipartisan investigation necessary,” said Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Washington Times this week that Mrs. Pelosi’s remarks constituted a “wrecking ball” to the morale of rank-and-file CIA officers. And former Vice President Dick Cheney insisted in a speech Thursday that Mrs. Pelosi and other key lawmakers were fully briefed on the techniques.

Without mentioning Mrs. Pelosi or other legislators by name, Mr. Cheney criticized members of Congress who, he said, demanded to be briefed on top-secret programs, “support them in private, and then head for the hills at the first sign of controversy.”

The Republican resolution would have set up a special subcommittee from the intelligence panel of two Democrats and two Republicans to look into Mrs. Pelosi’s charges.

Mrs. Pelosi has challenged CIA records that say she was briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques on Sept. 4, 2002, and she said last week the CIA continues to lie today about that briefing.

Still, she has acknowledged she learned waterboarding and other harsh questioning methods were being used from her top intelligence aide after he was briefed on Feb. 5, 2003.

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta sent a memo to employees the day after Mrs. Pelosi made her accusations, defending their honesty and asking for Washington to tone down the rhetoric.

Afterward, Mrs. Pelosi sent out her own statement saying she did not intend to disparage the CIA, but rather the Bush administration that approved the interrogation policies.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has criticized the use of harsh interrogation techniques in the past, said he would prefer to move on but understands why House Republicans brought the resolution.

“We should move forward, but if Nancy Pelosi doesn’t apologize, it creates a problem for the country at large,” he said. “… I didn’t want to go back and try [President Bush] and I don’t frankly want to retry Nancy Pelosi. But if we’re going to look at one, we’re going to look at both.”

The two Republicans who voted with Democrats to block the inquiry were Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Ron Paul of Texas.

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