Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Christopher “Kit” Bond have joined forces to put the Senate Intelligence Committee back on track after a rocky few years by running it in bipartisan fashion.
The committee is holding more frequent and more robust hearings, engaging in aggressive oversight of intelligence agencies and issuing joint findings. Members are helping — rather than hindering — those of the other party in the crafting of legislation.
This is possible partly because Rockefeller and Bond agreed to merge their committee staffs, eliminating duplicative or even competitive work, saving resources, and allowing better results.
The impact, experts say, could be better national security. …
Sources on the committee attribute the previous wrangling partly to efforts by Vice President Dick Cheney to push issues he was interested in through then-Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts, R‑Kan., leading aggressive committee Democrats such as Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan to push back.
With the Democratic takeover of the Senate, Rockefeller has moved to chairman and Bond vaulted over several Republicans to become vice chairman, Roberts left the committee and Levin moved over to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Whenever a committee flips (in party control) it’s got another dynamic anyway, but in this instance the difference between Rockefeller and Roberts is night and day,” said a senior Republican aide familiar with the committee’s workings, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Rockefeller is really an amiable guy, has no problem enticing Republicans to participate in the process, whereas Roberts tried to move along a Republican agenda.”
What’s odd is that for many years, Roberts was reputed to be the go-to guy for working across party lines. Who knows what happened when he took charge of the Intelligence committee, but around the same time, he did start shaking around bottles of “memory pills” on national TV.
He blamed the ineffectiveness of his committee on Democrats, but it turns out that Kit Bond, no moderate among Republicans, has no problem with new Democratic chairman Rockefeller. Perhaps now the committee can undertake oversight into illegal warrantless wiretaps, the abuse of intelligence to sell the Iraq war, and the state of affairs with Iran. All of those functions of the committee had been stalled under Roberts’ “leadership.”