House Democrats will allow Republicans to try and strip a global-warming study from a bill setting intelligence policy, a key panel decided last night, hours after top retired military officials lauded Democratic efforts to link climate change with national security.
House Republicans are gearing up for a floor showdown on the topic today because most Democrats insist the intelligence bill should keep a provision ordering a National Intelligence Estimate that would evaluate climate change as a security risk.
“This is an area that we may be vulnerable in terms of potential terrorists,” said Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat and chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“You mean a terrorist could impact global climate change?” asked Rep. David Dreier of California, the ranking Republican on the Rules Committee.
“We don’t know,” Mr. Reyes responded, prompting Mr. Dreier to snap sarcastically: “Wow. That’s amazing.”
After this exchange, the Rules panel met late into the night and was slated to approve the terms of debate, including a limitation of Republican amendments allowed to the Intelligence Authorization Act, which will be considered on the floor today.
The Washington Times, on its Web site, first reported last Thursday about the provision in the bill to draft a National Intelligence Estimate — a formal and authoritative report done by a broad section of the intelligence community — on the “anticipated geopolitical effects of global climate change.”
Well after midnight, after hours of negotiations on an unrelated Iraq spending bill, the Democrat-controlled Rules Committee approved a rule setting the framework for today’s debate.
The rule will allow for 7 amendments, including one authored by Intelligence panel ranking Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, to pull the provision about climate change from the bill.
Democrats after a hearing yesterday seemed like they would block the amendment.
Now that it will be allowed, it is unclear if Republicans have the votes to prevail on the amendment today, as Democrats control the House chamber.
The Bush administration opposes the provision, with the Office of Management and Budget saying it “sets a harmful precedent” and “impinges on the flexibility of [intelligence] professionals to approach a task in the most appropriate manner.”
But Mr. Reyes and others support the plan on the advice of nearly a dozen retired three- and four-star generals on the Military Advisory Board.
Some of those military commanders told the Senate Foreign Relations panel yesterday that global warming effects such as drought or major storms will make unstable regions even greater threats to the U.S. and that Democratic proposals to use intelligence agencies to study climate change don’t go far enough.
Climate change will make regions in Africa and the Middle East “breeding grounds for further trouble,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Richard Truly, a former NASA administrator and first commander of the Naval Space Command.