WASHINGTON – Frederick Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett broke with his party — and the rest of the Maryland delegation — to vote against the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 this week.
All seven of Maryland’s other congressmen voted for the bill that passed the House 336-75 Tuesday, and Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes both voted for it Wednesday in the Senate.
The bill was based on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. It will create a national intelligence director, set up a counterterrorism center and a civil liberties oversight board, increase the number of immigration agents, and upgrade aviation security, border control and cargo inspection measures.
Aides said Bartlett supported an earlier House version of the bill that included tougher restrictions on immigration. He voted against the final version of the bill because those provisions were stripped out.
Bartlett was pleased, however, that the final bill included language to ensure that the national intelligence director’s office would not interfere with the Pentagon’s ability to get intelligence to troops.
But that was not enough to win his support: Bartlett was one of 67 Republicans who opposed the bill, which is supported by the Bush administration.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said that the bill is not perfect, but it does “take the much-needed steps to improve our ability to detect, prevent and respond to future terrorist attacks.”
Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, also voted for the bill, even though it did not include a provision that would have shifted the way the Department of Homeland Security allocates funding. Cardin would like to see distribution based “more on threat levels and vulnerabilities than on per capita basis,” said Susan Sullam, his press secretary.
“Maryland is in close proximity to (Washington) D.C., plus we have a number of important facilities in our state that could possibly pose a problem in terms of terrorism,” Sullam said, citing the Port of Baltimore, the National Security Agency, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Detrick and Fort Meade.
She said Cardin, a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, will continue working to shift the funding formula. But he still thinks the bill approved this week will significantly improve intelligence operations, Sullam said, and was glad that it passed before Congress adjourned.
But Bartlett worried that Congress rushed the measure through. He would have preferred for the legislation to have been reintroduced in January so more hearings could be held.
“It was impossible to produce a good bill on such a complex issue that fast,” said Lisa Wright, Bartlett’s press secretary, who said Congress’ haste could bring “unforeseen, unintended consequences.”
After the House passed the measure Tuesday, the Senate approved it Wednesday evening 89-2, with nine senators not voting. Maryland’s senators, both Democrats, supported the measure.
“It is now critical that the Bush administration moves forward quickly in providing the necessary resources to implement the bill,” Sarbanes said in a written statement. “Without the funding to implement this legislation, we remain vulnerable to further terrorist activities both abroad and at home.”
But for a Bethesda woman who lost a family member in the Sept. 11 attacks, the vote could not come soon enough.
“We were very, very pleased to hear the intelligence bill was passed, and we were getting a little disgusted about the politics of it,” said Nancy Aronson, whose sister-in-law, Myra Aronson, was on American Airlines Flight 11 when terrorists flew it into the World Trade Center.
“It’s especially appropriate timing because tomorrow (Dec. 9) would have been Myra’s 54th birthday, so it’s very meaningful for us,” she said.
— CNS reporters Chris Kotterman, K Kaufmann, Linda Nishida, Subodh Mishra, Kia Hall Hayes, Rachael Jackson and Samson Habte contributed to this story.
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