WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence committee has approved legislation designed to clamp down on national security leaks as Republicans accuse the administration of intentionally disclosing classified information to burnish President Obama’s image in an election year.
In a closed session late Tuesday, the panel voted 14-1 for the bill, which also authorizes funds for the nation’s spy agencies.
The committee released a general description of the measure on Wednesday but did not disclose the overall amount of spending. That number is classified. The Associated Press has reported that the budget is around $80 billion.
The committee said only that its bill for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 reduces spending from current levels without harming national security.
Leaks about US involvement in cyberattacks on Iran and about an Al Qaeda plot to place an explosive device aboard a US-bound airliner have prompted an outcry from some in Congress and spilled into the presidential race. Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two attorneys to lead an investigation into who leaked the information.
The bill would restrict the number of employees in the intelligence community authorized to talk to reporters and prohibit current and former intelligence officials from doing contract work with the news media. The measure, which needs the full Senate’s vote, also would require the executive branch to notify Congress when it authorizes disclosure of certain intelligence information. It would give new authority to the director of National Intelligence to proactively identify leaks and take action.
Obama, Romney in battle with each other, ratings
President Obama leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 6 percentage points, but both men face growing unfavorable ratings in the midst of a largely negative campaign, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
The survey showed Obama leading Romney, 49 percent to 43 percent, among registered voters — a slight change from last month’s poll, which put the president’s lead at 47-44.
But 32 percent of survey respondents said they have “very negative” views of Obama, a 5-point increase since June and an all-time high for the president. Overall, the president’s positive ratings outweigh his negative ratings by 6 points.
Romney’s negative ratings outweigh his positives by 5 points, the poll showed, and 24 percent of registered voters have very negative views of Romney, also an all-time high.
No Republican nominee since 1996 has entered his nominating convention with an overall negative rating, NBC reported.
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released late Tuesday night, was conducted between July 18 and 22 and included 1,000 registered voters. Its margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.
Formats, sites announced for three presidential debates
WASHINGTON — Don’t look for podiums, opening statements, or surprise topics at the debates if President Obama and Mitt Romney follow the plan organizers released on Wednesday.
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates said debates would be 90 minutes each and feature topics that would be announced ahead of time so voters and candidates alike can study the subjects.
‘‘The debates are the most widely watched political programs of any kind,’’ debate planners Frank Fahrenkopf and Mike McCurry said in a statement. ‘‘These format changes are designed to promote substantive dialogue before, during, and after the debates about the major issues of the day.’’
Moderators for the televised events are set to be announced in August.
The first debate, scheduled for Oct. 3 at the University of Denver, is set to focus on domestic policy. Organizers plan six 15-minute segments that would open with a question, a two-minute reply from each candidate and then a discussion.
They want the candidates to sit at a table with the moderator, rather than standing on podiums.
The second, scheduled for Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., would take the form of a town hall-style meeting. Planners say the questions would come from undecided voters selected by pollster Gallup. Each candidate would get two minutes to tackle the question, with a moderator facilitating a follow-up discussion.
The final debate would take the same format as the first, but would focus on foreign policy topics announced ahead of time.
That is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet Romney’s yet-unnamed running mate for a debate on Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Ky.