- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday he will decide in the next two days whether there is a realistic chance that Congress can get the September 11 intelligence-reorganization bill completed before Election Day.

When asked whether there would be a vote before the Nov. 2 election on a compromise House-Senate bill that would reorganize the intelligence community as recommended by the September 11 commission, Mr. Frist replied, “I haven’t decided. I’ll make a decision in the next 48 hours.”

But the Tennessee Republican later said he still planned to ask negotiators to begin work immediately to “see if we can work through the differences and bring people back before the election.”

The majority leader yesterday appointed Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, George V. Voinovich of Ohio, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Trent Lott of Mississippi to serve as the Senate Republican negotiators.

Democrats chose Sens. Joe Lieberman, Carl Levin of Michigan, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, Bob Graham of Florida and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey.

The House has not announced its negotiators.

The two chambers, both led by Republicans, passed differing bills creating a national intelligence director and a national counterterrorism center to address the September 11 commission’s central complaint that the nation’s intelligence agencies do not work well together.

They now must negotiate a final bill and bring the full Congress back to Washington in the next two weeks if they hope to get something to President Bush before the election. Many House and Senate members already have gone home to campaign.

Each chamber says it wants to create a national intelligence director before the election, but the House also included more government anti-terrorism powers, including some additional barriers against illegal immigration, in its legislation that the Senate did not.

House leaders say they will insist on keeping their provisions.

Mr. Frist and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, agreed that they would stand together as well for the Senate bill.

Mr. Daschle said House and Senate Republicans have stood together during negotiating committee meetings.

“So there is considerable apprehension on our side what will happen in this conference if the House again demands that its positions be accepted,” Mr. Daschle said.

But Mr. Frist said Miss Collins, whom he appointed as the Senate’s conference leader, pushed bipartisan legislation through the Senate that was endorsed by the September 11 commission and was co-sponsored by Mr. Lieberman.

“She has agreed that she will not pursue a conclusion to the conference, nor sign any conference report, that undermines the bipartisan working relationship that has existed in the Senate,” Mr. Frist said.

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