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Specter may block funds for wiretaps

WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- Sen. Arlen Specter has threatened to cut off funds for President Bush's warrantless wiretap program.

Specter, R-Pa., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday he would consider offering an amendment to cut off funds for the White House's warrantless domestic wiretapping, perhaps to the Fiscal Year 2006 supplemental, if he did not receive more satisfactory answers from Bush administration officials, CongressDaily reported Tuesday.

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"I want to put the administration on notice, and this committee on notice, I may be looking for an amendment to limit funding for the electronic surveillance program, which is the power of the purse, if we can't get an answer in any other way," Specter said Tuesday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Bush's $19.8 billion hurricane relief request.

Specter has oversight over both the Justice Department and Pentagon. He has been developing legislation to require the National Security Agency to obtain court approval every 45 days to continue the domestic surveillance program. Specter indicated he would call in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to testify again on the issue, but did not rule out taking further action, including a funding limitation amendment, CongressDaily said.

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"That was a suggestion that was very prominent if we cannot find some political solution to the disagreement with the executive branch. Our ultimate power is the power of the purse, which comes from the Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee on Defense," said Specter, who is a member of that subcommittee.

Specter's comments drew a rebuke from Senate Transportation-Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Bond, R-Mo.

"I would just say to my good friend from Pennsylvania I hope we don't do something like cut off the ability of our NSA to intercept calls from al-Qaida," Bond said. "... I hope that we don't do anything like that."

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