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Legislation to Reform US Intelligence Advances in Congress - 2004-09-09


Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers have formally introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to implement most of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to reform the U.S. intelligence system. The move comes just before the third anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The bill is the House version of bipartisan legislation already pending in the Senate.

In theory, it sets the stage for a Congress often criticized for inaction to take the important symbolic step of sending President Bush a final bill before Congress is due to adjourn in October.

And President Bush has moved a bit closer to accepting the provisions of the bipartisan legislation now making its way through Congress.

On Wednesday, he endorsed giving a proposed new National Intelligence Director more authority to control non-military intelligence budgets, one of the key proposals of the 9/11 Commission. Mr. Bush had initially opposed the idea, which supporters say is necessary to boost the authority of the new director.

The House version of the bill is co-sponsored by Republican Christopher Shays, who was also present earlier this week at a news conference in the Senate.

"The commission's recommendations deserve, they demand, our humble respect and most serious consideration. This bill represents a bipartisan, bicameral effort to give those recommendations the deference and deliberation they are all due."

The intelligence reform bill in the House, or the one in the Senate, may not end up being what President Bush signs into law.

Mr. Shays calls the House proposal a reasonable starting point and issued this call to lawmakers of both parties to resist the temptation to play politics with the legislation.

"This close to an election the temptation to political mischief can be strong, but must be resisted by both parties," he said. "Salting a 9/11 Commission implementation bill with partisan poison pills and other extraneous proposals would be a disservice to the commission, to the families of the victims of September 11th, and to the voters who sent us here."

Democrats are pressing the House Republican leadership to bring the bipartisan measure to a vote and allow full debate.

"I firmly believe that if this bill were placed before the House of Representatives for a vote, it would pass overwhelmingly," said Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York City. "The challenge is to have a bipartisan, open, fair process to bring it to the floor for a vote."

Introduction of the legislation came on a day when the House, presided over by Republican Dennis Hastert, passed a symbolic sense of Congress resolution to mark the upcoming third anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"The chair would ask the House to stand in tribute to the victims of September 11, 2001, those terrorist attacks that rocked this nation, we would like to observe a moment of silence in their memory," he said.

Although the Republican leadership may not go along with the specific bills proposed so far in the House and Senate, and other competing proposals are expected, lawmakers of both parties recognize the importance of Congress acting in some way before adjournment in early October to prepare for the congressional and presidential election on November 2.

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