- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

The House Republican leadership is softening its opposition to extending the life of the commission investigating the September 11 attacks, likely giving the panel the extra time it requested to complete its work.

A spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said the speaker still thinks that the commission should finish by its congressionally mandated deadline of May 27, but if a motion for an extension is raised, Mr. Hastert would not block it, or work to get other Republicans to oppose it.

“If something comes from the Senate, I don’t think we’d stop it,” Hastert spokesman John Feehery said in an interview.

He declined to comment on the reasons for the speaker’s change of heart.

The commission welcomed the news.

“We respect his views on when we ought to finish, but we will be very pleased if he does not stand in the way of the extra time we have asked for,” said spokesman Al Felzenberg.

The panel — formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States — requested a 60-day extension last month.

The White House supports the 60-day extension, but moving the deadline will require a vote in both chambers of Congress, and the speaker’s opposition, up until now, had made it unlikely that a vote would be taken in the House.

White House officials declined to say whether they had pressured the speaker.

“We are working with Congress to get [the commission] the extra time they need to complete their important work. That’s all I can say,” White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said.

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said he also wanted to grant the commission the additional time it needed and was working with senators who had taken the lead on the issue: Susan Collins, Maine Republican; Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat; and John McCain, Arizona Republican.

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