Washington (CNN) – House Republicans were still hammering away at Democrats on Friday, one day after pressuring the majority to withdraw a controversial amendment to an intelligence funding bill that would have criminally punished intelligence officers for conducting harsh interrogations.
On the House floor, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, called the provision "deplorable," and said it was symptomatic in how some in Congress and the administration view intelligence officials. "Their reflex action is to blame the intelligence community first," he said.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said he was glad the Democrats decided to take what he called a "lousy" amendment out of the bill, but criticized them for "sneaking" it into the overall money bill without any debate or hearings.
Earlier this week, the House Rules Committee added several amendments to the intelligence funding bill, including an 11-page provision that specifies criminal penalties for "any officer or employee of the intelligence community who, in the course of or in anticipation of a covered interrogation, knowingly commits, attempts to commit, or conspires to commit an act of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment."
The acts defined in the amendment include beatings, electric shock, waterboarding, deprivation of food, water or sleep and violations of the suspects religious beliefs. The intelligence officers would face up to 15 years in prison or life behind bars if the detainee dies.
When Republicans discovered the amendment Thursday during floor debate on the overall bill, they went on the offense.
Thornberry said it was a "topsy-turvy land where we forget who the good guys are, who are trying to keep us safe, and who the bad guys are."
Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Michigan, said the amendment is too vague, failing to define such things as what constitutes lack of sleep or an infringement on religious beliefs. He maintained that it "will absolutely freeze the intelligence community's ability to go out and get information that they need."
Hoekstra said the provision would create new criminal statutes and repeatedly asked Democrats to explain the rationale for the amendment. Only two responded.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, Illinois said the amendment simply "reiterates existing law on torture and provides statutory criminal penalties." Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, agreed, arguing that the provision "simply says, follow the rules, follow the law."
Their, however, explanations did not jibe with the congressman who authored the amendment. After the provision was pulled, Jim McDermott, D-Washington, explained that his amendment "would have expanded upon the president's Executive Order to clearly define what constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading interrogation so that it is unmistakable what kinds of techniques are unacceptable."
So why did the Democrats decide to strike the amendment? Reyes said it was done because the Republicans had "some mis-impressions" of what the amendment was intended to do. His Republican counterpart saw it differently. Hoekstra said the Democrats did not have enough votes within their own party to pass the bill.