Again, even despite the lopsided nature of last night’s results, and despite the nagging fear that President Obama will be only too eager to gut the last vestiges of New Deal/Great Society-style economic populism from the Democratic Party under the guise of compromising with Congressional Republicans, I don’t see last night having a major impact on too much in the near term. But it is obviously true that with Republican control of the Senate comes Republican control of all the Senate committees, where lots of things get talked about even if they aren’t actually going to get done.
In most areas even the change in committee control isn’t going to amount to much unless the full Senate eliminates the filibuster (or Democrats inexplicably refuse to make use of it, but I doubt that will happen) or President Obama loses his veto stamp. But as it so happens, right now the Senate Intelligence Committee is embroiled in a pretty nasty spat with the White House and the CIA over declassifying its report into the CIA’s Bush-era torture program. The CIA, for obvious reasons, wants only a very heavily redacted version of the report’s executive summary to be made public, while Democrats on the committee, plus basic human decency and the need for America to come to grips with its post-9/11 crimes, are in favor of as full a disclosure as possible.
The good news for Team Obfuscate is that with Republicans back in control of the committee, and with the defeat of a loud voice in favor of declassification, Colorado Senator Mark Udall, there’s a pretty good chance that the CIA has now won the spat. There has in fact been some recent speculation, from Trevor Timm at The Guardian and Dan Froomkin at The Intercept, among others, that the CIA (very likely) and maybe even the Obama administration (not so likely, but not out of the realm of possibility) were hoping/waiting for Republicans to win control of the chamber so that they could quash the report:
Human-rights lawyer Scott Horton, who interviewed a wide range of intelligence and administration officials for his upcoming book, “Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy,” told The Intercept that the White House and the CIA are hoping a Republican Senate will, in their words, “put an end to this nonsense.”
Stalling for time until after the midterm elections and the start of a Republican-majority session is the “battle plan,” Horton said. “I can tell you that Brennan has told people in the CIA that that’s his prescription for doing it.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee is slated to be chaired by Richard Burr (R-NC) in the next Congress, and, well, he’s far less likely to take an antagonistic position toward the Intelligence Community than even the pretty centrist Dianne Feinstein, the current chair of the committee.
Timm called today for Udall to read the torture report into the public Congressional record as his last act on the way out of the Senate, since he can’t be punished by party leadership at this point. I suppose there’s a chance of that happening, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. This is likely one area where last night’s Republican victory will make a clear difference, and not for the better.