WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Thursday defeated a Republican push to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's assertion that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether waterboarding had been used against terrorism suspects.
Republicans Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina joined Democrats in voting 252-172 to block the measure, which would have created a bipartisan congressional panel. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sponsored the resolution.
"This is partisan politics and an attempt by the Republicans to distract from the real issue of creating jobs and making progress on health care, energy and education," said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami.
Pelosi was not present at the time of the vote. Republicans called for it while she was giving a commencement speech at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Earlier this month, Pelosi told reporters that she had not been told that waterboarding had been used against terrorism suspects, even though it had been. President Barack Obama and human rights groups have said waterboarding, which simulates drowning, is torture.
"To have this charge out there and not have it resolved I think is damaging to our intelligence efforts, and certainly will have a chilling effect on our intelligence professionals around the world," said House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney also stepped into the debate.
In a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Cheney said Pelosi and other lawmakers had been briefed on the interrogation techniques on "numerous occasions."
"In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists," Cheney said.
Pelosi has asked the CIA to declassify information supporting her claims.
The CIA has sent lawmakers its notes and memos on 40 congressional briefings on the interrogation techniques. But that document has been found to include several errors.
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CIA Director Leon Panetta acknowledged in a May 6 letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, that the CIA's list may not be completely accurate.
"In the end, you and the committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened," Panetta wrote.
Democrats are pointing out that Republicans also have accused the CIA of misleading them on intelligence matters. Boehner himself called into question the soundness of the intelligence community when it determined in 2007 that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program.
Boehner told reporters on Thursday that it was an unfair comparison because he never accused the men and women of the intelligence community of misleading Congress.
House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters in a separate Capitol Hill news conference that he supports creation of a panel to investigate the nation's interrogation policy. What the CIA told Congress and when could be part of that, he said.
But the Republican-drafted proposal was a partisan jab meant to distract from the question of whether the Bush administration tortured war prisoners, he said. Hoyer called the resolution another example of Republicans engaging in "politics of personal destruction."
Boehner defended the harsh interrogations.
"I don't believe the enhanced interrogation techniques were wrong," he said.
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