Suzanne Spaulding writes: Most Senate committees adjust the number of majority and minority seats they include in proportion to the overall Senate and have a member of the majority preside if the committee chairman is not present. The Intelligence Committee, on the other hand, is required to have a majority of only one seat, and in the chairman’s absence the vice chairman, chosen from the minority party, presides. Importantly, the vice chairman can issue a subpoena without the chairman, so long as it is “authorized by the committee.’’ As few as one-third of committee members constitute a quorum, and decisions of the committee require only a majority of those present and voting. This helps achieve a greater balance of power that fosters bipartisanship.
By tradition, the Senate’s leadership tends to take care in appointing members to the Intelligence Committee, understanding that the committee can do its work only if it maintains the trust of the intelligence community and the public. The members of the committee also need the trust of their colleagues, who will not have ready access to the intelligence shared daily with the committee. At the moment, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s members tend to be less ideological than their respective caucuses, and the committee has a better record than many others of operating in a bipartisan fashion. [Continue reading…]