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Memo sparks GOP to issue ultimatum
Senior Senate Republicans said yesterday that unless Democrats disavow a plot to use the traditionally nonpartisan intelligence committee to wage political attacks on the Bush administration, they would consider taking away Democrats’ power-sharing privileges.
Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said that if Democrats expect cooperation from the White House in the investigation of intelligence failures that preceded the war in Iraq, “they’ve got to stop the politics.”
“If they don’t, I think we have to change the whole [nonpartisan] nature of the committee,” Mr. Santorum said.
A memo written by a staffer for committee co-chairman Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, and leaked to the press Tuesday, suggested Democrats “pull the majority along as far as we can,” then “take full advantage” of committee rules to “among other things, castigate the majority for seeking to limit the scope of the inquiry.”
The memo suggested that the best time to “pull the trigger on an independent investigation” of the Bush administration would be next year, when the president will be campaigning for re-election.
“Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public’s concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq,” the memo says. “The approach outlined above seems to offer the best prospect for exposing the administration’s dubious motives.”
Mr. Santorum said Democratic senators “were either responsible for ordering that memo or some staff person generated it on his own.”
“My feeling is, if they were responsible, they’ve got to claim responsibility. They’ve got to disavow this tactic and let the buck stop where it is,” Mr. Santorum said.
Mr. Rockefeller said there was nothing to disavow and wondered if the rift between Republicans and Democrats on the issue was genuine.
“Has it been created, or is it really a rift?” Mr. Rockefeller said last night. “There are created rifts and there are rifts, and I’m not sure which category this falls into.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican and member of the intelligence committee, said Democrats have a responsibility “to tell us where [the memo] came from … and to have that staffer removed.”
“This has the potential to change the way the intelligence committee operates,” Mr. Chambliss said.
Democrats also want to know where the memo came from and have called for an investigation into how the document was leaked to the press. Mr. Rockefeller, however, was less enthusiastic about such a move.
“I’m not there yet,” he said. “It might come to that. But I’m much more interested in getting the committee back together again. That is much more important.”
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