- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Congress hopes to have an anti-terrorism bill on President Bush's desk by the end of the week, but yesterday's anthrax scare and technical differences between the House and Senate versions could slow final action.

The personal office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, was shut down and 40 employees tested for anthrax after a letter was opened containing powder that tested positive for the bacteria.

The event diverted attention from legislating.

However, Mr. Daschle urged senators to continue business as usual and a Democratic leadership aide said they are "hopeful" the anti-terrorism bill can be completed this week.

"This Senate and this institution will not stop. We will not cease our business. We will continue to work," said Mr. Daschle, whose office in the Hart Senate Office Building will be closed for several days for the investigation and cleanup. His staff was quarantined yesterday.

Republicans want to move the measure approved by the House Friday on a 337-79 vote, which is based on the original Senate bill.

Senate Democrats are reviewing the House measure and then will decide whether a conference is needed to reconcile differences.

"We will take a couple of days to review what the House passed and what the [Senate] committee originally intended to do," the Democratic aide said.

Democrat senators are concerned the House bill lacks their measure to tighten money-laundering laws, which banks oppose. Mr. Daschle says the legislation is a non-starter without it.

Both parties in the Senate expressed reservations about a sunset provision that would require expanded wiretap powers expire after five years.

The Bush administration asked for the legislation after the Sept. 11 attacks to give the FBI broader powers to conduct wiretaps and unannounced searches, tougher penalties for terrorists and allows federal authorities to detain aliens for up to seven days before filing charges, instead of the current 48 hours.

"We're still hopeful we can avoid a conference because this language is very similar to the Senate," said a House Republican leadership aide.

Only three Republicans voted against the House measure citing civil liberties concerns: Reps. Ray LaHood of Illinois, Ron Paul of Texas and C.L. "Butch" Otter of Idaho.

"We must not allow the first nonhuman casualty in the war against terrorism to be our civil rights," Mr. Otter said.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans used a procedural move to block a $15 billion foreign operations spending bill to protest the slow movement of Mr. Bush's judicial nominees.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said the Mississippi Republican and others are "pushing hard to get an agreement" on moving the nominees.

"In light of passing anti-terrorism legislation, we need as many judges as we can get to monitor these activities," said spokesman Ron Bonjean.

"There is really no excuse why we haven't had an agreement to move these nominations," Mr. Bonjean said.

To date, 13 percent of Mr. Bush's nominees have been confirmed compared with 57 percent former President Bill Clinton achieved during his first year in 1993.

During the like period of their first years, former President George Bush had 62 percent confirmed and former President Ronald Reagan 91 percent confirmed, Mr. Bonjean said.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Vermont Democrat, called the charges "baloney" and said Republicans were behaving like "petulant children on a school ground.

"It is utterly lacking in judgment and will punish the entire nation to hold up this bill. Let's stop holding this up and get on with the Senate's business," Mr. Leahy said.


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