- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

House Republicans yesterday expressed more optimism that a final version of legislation to overhaul the intelligence community will make it to President Bush’s desk before Election Day.

Hopeful statements about the bill’s chances follow a week of speculation that differences between the House and Senate versions would prevent enactment of the measure before Congress adjourns for a recess that will last past Election Day.

Earlier this week, White House staffers urged House Republicans to remove from their bill immigration-related provisions not present in the Senate’s version.

But last night, House Republicans guaranteed that those provisions would be in the bill that goes to conference committee.

On a 213-204 vote, the House rejected a bid late last night to substitute the provisions of the Senate bill. Eight Republicans, 195 Democrats and one independent voted for the amendment; all 213 votes against it were cast by Republicans.

House Republicans now are left standing alone in their fight to include provisions that would crack down on issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, make it easier to deport terrorists and limit the acceptance of foreign consular cards as valid identification. Seven of the September 11 hijackers possessed forged Virginia licenses.

House Deputy Majority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, who introduced the driver’s license restrictions,said yesterday that implementation of that provision would be delayed by three years, a compromise to ensure that such restrictions remain in the final bill.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, said a similar amendment introduced and passed on to the Senate bill by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, was a good step toward making House-Senate negotiations easier.

Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, have called for immediate passage of the legislation, which wouldimplement many recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States for revamping the nation’s intelligence agencies.

But unlike the Senate, which passed a bipartisan bill 96-2 on Wednesday, partisan debate over the House measure has been rancorous. Complaining that Republicans repeatedly reject Democratic efforts to amend the bill, Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, said yesterday that he was “tired of being fed bills, with no choice at all, as if I were a starving dog.”

Both Republicans and Democrats in the House predicted political upheaval if Congress does not pass the bill before Election Day.

“If [Republicans] fail to produce a bill, it will be because of the partisanship by the House leaders in drafting their bill and rejecting our alternative, which is the Senate bill that passed overwhelmingly,” said Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. He added that the House leadership’s bill will make for tougher negotiations with the Senate.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, similarly predicted that Democrats “will be punished” if they block the intelligence bill as they did in 2002 with legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security.

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