Sen. Specter threatens to cut off funding for secret wiretaps
April 27, 2006
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said Thursday he is considering legislation to cut off funding for the Bush administration's secret domestic wiretapping program until he gets satisfactory answers about it from the White House.
"Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress at the moment," Specter, R-Pennsylvania, told the panel. "If we are to maintain our institutional prerogative, that may be the only way we can do it."
Specter said he had informed President Bush about his intention and that he has attracted several potential co-sponsors. He said he's become increasingly frustrated in trying to elicit information about the program from senior White House officials at several public hearings.
Specter also agreed with Democrats who say that any of the bills to tighten guidelines for the National Security Agency program and increase congressional oversight could be flatly ignored by an administration with a long history of acting alone in security matters.
"It is true that we have no assurance that the president would follow any statute that we enact," Specter said. He said he's considering adding an amendment to stop funding of the program to an Iraq war-hurricane relief bill being debated by the Senate this week and next.
Senior Republican officials said they had not received guidance about the legislation and could not say when it might come before the committee or to the Senate floor.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Specter's announcement came a day after the House passed a bill 327-96 to dramatically increase spending on intelligence programs. In the process, Republicans blocked an amendment to expand congressional oversight of the NSA warrantless surveillance program.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Michigan, said allegations that NSA domestic wiretapping operations are abusive or unconstitutional are outrageous and that Congress is committed to vigorous oversight of the program.
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