House Passes Intel Bill After Stripping CIA Punishment Proposal

It took an extra day, but the House of Representatives on Friday approved a bill to reauthorize the nation's intelligence programs.

The House approved the bill by a 235-to-168 vote, after a controversial measure was removed that would have imposed tough punishments on CIA interrogators who cross the line while questioning suspected terrorists.

The House Democratic leadership team hoped to approve the measure Thursday, but in a stunning move was forced to yank the bill off the floor after the controversy over the CIA measure erupted.

Moderate and conservative Democrats joined most Republicans in crying foul when Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., added a provision to the measure that could punish CIA officers for engaging in "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" when they interrogate terrorism suspects. There was no concrete language, though, describing what the terms "cruel, inhuman and vague" meant -- the bill would have given Congress several years to define the terms.

Some of the enhanced interrogation methods in question include using waterboarding, electric shock, beatings and dogs to intimidate suspects, as well as placing a hood over an individual's head.

Under the proposal, some interrogators could be jailed for 15 years -- or receive a life sentence if a detainee dies in custody -- if convicted.

But Republicans have long argued that such measures send the wrong message to the country's intelligence community.

"It's topsy-turvy land where we forget who the good guys are, who the guys trying to keep us safe are and who the bad guys are," Intelligence Committee member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said.

A senior House Republican aide said it was "a victory" that Democrats had to pull the intelligence bill from the House floor.

But Democrats rejected the GOP accusations.

"(The) majority and minority strongly support our intelligence community and we are absolutely committed to prosecuting this war to the fullest extent possible," Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash, said.

One intelligence source described the debate as bizarre.

"You've really got to wonder what's going on here. The CIA no longer has a detention and interrogation program. That ended in January 2009 by executive order. It's over, so the need for this proposal is your classic head-scratcher," the source said.

Fox News' Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.