After more than a week of deliberation, the House overwhelmingly approved a measure honoring the intelligence community for the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.
The vote wasn’t unanimous, however. Four liberal Democrats – Reps. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Pete Stark (Calif.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) – voted “present” on the measure, which was offered as an amendment to an intelligence authorization bill.
In a statement to The Hill, Lee said she “commend[s] the president and all those involved with planning and executing the effort to obtain Osama bin Laden.” She noted that she voted for a separate Democratic motion that included language congratulating presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, along with the intelligence community. But Lee, who opposes the ongoing U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, took issue with language in the amendment that reaffirmed congressional support for anti-terrorism missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I voted present on this amendment, which contains overly broad language I believe to be inconsistent with the simple and important message of acclamation for the work of the intelligence community leading to the death of Osama Bin Laden,” Lee said.
The other three Democrats did not explain their vote and did not return multiple requests for comment Friday afternoon. All four have long opposed most U.S. military operations and intelligence-gathering methods in the war on terrorism, and they were among 15 lawmakers, including three Republicans, who voted against the underlying intelligence bill.
House Republican leaders had declined to bring a stand-alone resolution honoring the bin Laden mission, citing rules the party passed in January prohibiting commemorative resolutions.
Measures introduced by Reps. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) has garnered dozens of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. The Senate last week unanimously passed a resolution congratulating the military and President Obama for the mission.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said earlier this week that passage of the intelligence authorization bill would serve as a more substantive honor for the intelligence community, and aides said debate over that bill would allow lawmakers to speak about the bin Laden mission on the House floor.
The GOP ultimately accepted an amendment offered by Reps. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) that congratulated the intelligence community – but not the military or the president – for finding the al Qaeda leader.
McCotter didn't fault Republican leaders for their inaction on his own resolution.
"I dropped it in case they wanted to use it," he told The Hill, "but it's their decision to make."
With more than a week having passed since the killing of bin Laden, he wasn't optimistic about its chances.
"To a certain extent, the window is closed," he said.
In total, 406 members voted for the Grimm/Reed amendment. Twenty-one lawmakers were absent for the vote, which was among the last before the House broke for a weeklong recess.
Here is the text of the amendment:
(1) commends the men and women of the intelligence community for the tremendous commitment, perseverance, professionalism, and sacrifice they displayed in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice;
(2) commends the men and women of the intelligence community for committing themselves to defeating, disrupting, and dismantling al Qaeda; and
(3) reaffirms its commitment to using the capabilities and skills of the intelligence community to--
(A) disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and affiliated organizations around the world that threaten the national security of the United States;
(B) eliminate safe havens for terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and
(C) bring terrorists to justice.