- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

Bipartisan legislation to extend the deadline for the September 11 commission until after the presidential election will be introduced in both houses of Congress this week.

The bills — proposed by Rep. Vito Fossella, New York Republican, in the House and Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, in the Senate — were welcomed by commission members and victims’ relatives.

Members of the 10-member bipartisan commission said last month that they needed more time to complete their report than is allowed by the congressionally mandated deadline of May 27.

The panel had requested a two-month extension, but that raised concern the report would be published in the middle of an election campaign and would risk politicizing the findings.

Both the White House and the Republican leadership in the House indicated that they wanted the commission to continue on its original schedule.

Neither the White House nor House leadership returned phone calls yesterday.

The House and Senate bills extend the life of the commission until January 2005 and Nov. 27, 2004, respectively, well after the election.

“I believe the bill I will introduce meets the twin goals of giving the commission the time it needs to complete its work and hopefully removes partisanship from the process,” Mr. Fossella said yesterday.

The bill to be moved by Mr. McCain and Mr. Lieberman “will extend [the commission] for six months,” Mr. Lieberman — a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination — told CNN yesterday.

“It gets it beyond the Election Day.”

Both Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Fossella indicted that they were acting at the urging of victims’ relatives, who, in Mr. Lieberman’s words, “don’t want this search for how their loved ones died to be politicized in any way.”

Commission members said last week that if no extension is granted, the length, number and scope of public hearings would have to be scaled back by as much as a third, and that the inquiry would not be as thorough as it could be.

“We’re still at risk,” said Mindy Kleinberg, who lost her husband, Alan, in the attacks. “Things haven’t been fixed and, with these aviation alerts over Christmas and this weekend, it is clear those who struck on September 11 still want to hit us.

“What argument can there be against allowing the commission to finish its work properly?”

“I sure hope the administration … will now support a six-month extension,” said Mr. Lieberman, “because there ought not to be any time limits or any defensiveness … on the search for truth about how September 11 happened.”

Relatives said they would be lobbying members of Congress during the coming weeks to secure support for the extension.

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