House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert yesterday named Bush loyalist Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, to head the chamber’s intelligence committee.
Mr. Hoekstra, who currently heads the panel’s subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence, will succeed Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican, who stepped aside as chairman after his nomination Aug. 10 to become director of central intelligence.
“Pete has big shoes to fill, but I am confident he will do an excellent job,” Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, said yesterday.
The intelligence committee is currently at the center of several different proposals — sparked by the September 11 commission’s final report last month — for revamping U.S. intelligence and the restructuring of congressional oversight of the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security.
Democrats welcomed the appointment. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Maryland Democrat, said he was “pleased” with the appointment of a man he called “a hardworking, dedicated, patriotic American, who will ensure that politics have no place in the intelligence community.”
But though the panel — formally known as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — was once known for cooperation across the aisle, the atmosphere has been made increasingly partisan in recent months by election-year conflict, which came to a head in disputes last month over the 2005 intelligence authorization bill.
Democrats said the bill did not authorize enough spending on counterterrorism, but Republicans countercharged that they were showboating and politicizing intelligence issues.
In a thinly veiled reference to that dispute, the panel’s senior Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman of California, said she had spoken with Mr. Hoekstra, who “agreed that the committee sorely needs to get back to bipartisanship.”
In announcing the new chairman, Mr. Hastert referred to Mr. Hoekstra’s interest in Iraq — he was tapped by the speaker to lead a congressional delegation there just before the turnover of power to the U.S.-backed interim administration — and the Michigan congressman has loyally defended President Bush on the issue, attending a White House ceremony on the anniversary of the war earlier this year.
According to Congressional Quarterly, his “loyalty index” — the proportion of votes on which he supported the party’s House leadership — was 95 percent.
Like Mr. Hastert, Mr. Hoekstra opposed the establishment of the September 11 commission, and he has also expressed skepticism about some of its proposals, according to the Detroit News.