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House Republicans Vow 9/11 Commission Bill Before Adjournment - 2004-09-15


Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have outlined what they describe as an aggressive schedule to come up with comprehensive intelligence reform legislation implementing recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that investigated the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Republican Majority leader, Congressman Tom DeLay, says the objective is to have a final House vote on a bill for before lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn in October.

"It is the first priority of the House in this final stretch before adjournment, to act comprehensively to improve our homeland security infrastructure, guided by the 9/11 Commission's findings, and the extensive work done by our committees," Mr. DeLay says.

The 108th Congress is due to end its legislative session next month so lawmakers can return to their home districts to campaign for the November congressional elections.

However, conscious of intense public support for the 9/11 Commission results, lawmakers from both parties are concerned that failure to act before adjournment could cost them votes.

Mr. DeLay issued an appeal to Democrats "not to let politics get in the way of achieving final legislation."

But in a separate news conference Wednesday, the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, renewed her criticism of that Republicans waited too long after the 9/11 Commission issued its report.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for the Republicans to hand us a bill at the end of the congressional session. We have had three years and now it's been a couple of months since the commission put forth its report," she says.

Mr. Delay defends the Republican timetable, saying the American people deserve careful consideration of the commission recommendations rather than what he calls, a "rubber stamp."

"This is a vigorous and responsible, and I emphasize responsible, schedule, both expedited and deliberate," Mr. DeLay says. "One month of study, one month of legislating, and a final vote before we adjourn."

In the Senate, a bipartisan proposal on the 9/11 Commission recommendations moved ahead.

"We create a national intelligence director who would have the authority that George Tenent lacked, would have the authority to marshal (bring together) the people, the money, and the resources to target the threats facing our country," says Republican Senator Susan Collins.

Senate legislation calls for creation of a National Intelligence Director, and a National Counterterrorism Center, two of more than 40 recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. The Senate bill has also been introduced in the House.

Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman says these and other steps are aimed at reforming the way the U.S. intelligence system uses information so mistakes made before September 2001 are not repeated.

"The 9/11 Commission indicted the status quo in America's intelligence community and they have called for, in fact, insisted on fundamental revolutionary reform," Mr. Lieberman says.

The House Republican leadership hopes to be able to complete language on a final bill by the end of September.

Party leaders in both congressional chambers indicate they intend to keep the 9/11 legislation free of amendments that might slow its progress, although these cannot be ruled out.

Both chambers of Congress would have to approve 9/11 Commission legislation, and differences would have to be reconciled, before a final intelligence reform bill could go to President Bush for signature.

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