WASHINGTON – The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed a bill to fund the nation's spy agencies, using the legislation as an opportunity to commend the operatives who were critical in hunting down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
The vote was 392-15, a reflection of the strong bipartisan support and the goodwill toward the intelligence community after bin Laden's death.
New House Republican rules prohibit the resolutions of commendation that lawmakers would often offer to congratulate everyone from the military to winning sports teams. Instead, lawmakers added a provision to the bill praising the intelligence community for the successful operation in bringing bin Laden to justice. The provision was based on the Senate resolution that passed 97-0.
"It really wasn't a victory over one person or one leader, but a blow to the entire network, to the belief system of those that believe violence, killing innocent men, women and children of all religions is a way to promote your political gains," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence committee.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., whose district includes the site where the two towers of the World Trade Center once stood, called it "the most significant victory over our most significant enemy."
The overall bill would authorize money for the 16 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The amount of money in the bill is classified. However, the administration said last year's budget totaled $80.1 billion.
Passage came despite objections from the administration that the measure tells it how many people it can hire.
"Cuts to requested funding and personnel levels will have a seriously negative effect on essential intelligence community national security operations, including counterterrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction analysis and counterintelligence — all critical, high-priority needs," the White House said in a statement.
Notably, it stopped short of threatening a presidential veto.
Following reports that bin Laden urged al-Qaida groups to target trains, the House added a provision stressing its intention that railway transportation should be included in security plans for the intelligence agencies.
"Today's legislation will ensure that the U.S. government places a priority on ensuring the safety of rail passengers around the country by working to prevent a terrorist attack on our rail system," said Rep. John Carney, D-Del., the sponsor of the amendment.
The provision passed on a 221-189 vote despite opposition from Republican leaders who argued that the agencies should decide on their priorities.