- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

House Republican leaders yesterday said they will introduce their own bill next week to restructure and improve the nation’s intelligence community and guaranteed a vote on it before adjourning next month.

“We will do the job right,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, at an event with other Republican leaders, including House Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri. “We are not going to let either the calendar or politics get in the way.”

The House bill will be based loosely on the September 11 commission’s recommendations, as well as the recommendations of six House committee chairmen who have been working with House Republican leaders.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, wasn’t at the event with Mr. DeLay, but said that the bill would be introduced early next week and that the committees will vote on it and send it to the floor later this month.

The Senate, by contrast, is moving a bipartisan bill, which was introduced yesterday and will come to a vote in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday and before the full Senate the next week. It was crafted by Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins, Maine Republican, and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the panel’s top Democrat.

A House Republican leadership aide said Mr. DeLay and other Republican leaders spoke publicly yesterday in order to clarify their intentions on this topic, because there were conflicting reports in the press that they either were moving too fast, too slow or not at all on such legislation.

“There was needless confusion about what was going to be accomplished by when, so we felt it was important to show the leaders in unison working toward certain goals,” the aide said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has criticized the House Republicans for not moving fast enough on the commission’s recommendations, and she wasn’t pleased with yesterday’s news either. She said it means that House members will be handed a bill at the last minute, instead of through a more bipartisan process.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for the Republicans to hand us a bill at the end of the session,” she said. “Congress should have immediately taken up those recommendations and acted upon them.”

But in the Senate, Miss Collins was pleased with the House Republican leaders’ plans to move forward. She said she was initially “concerned,” after hearing talk that House Republican leaders wouldn’t act until next year.

“That talk is now gone,” Miss Collins said. “Everybody is committed to moving this year.”

The bill crafted by Miss Collins and Mr. Lieberman would implement the commission’s main recommendations — the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center and the creation a new Senate-approved national intelligence director, who would oversee the intelligence community and have the power to hire and fire deputies and control the budgets. President Bush has endorsed these two ideas.

Their bill also addresses a handful of more minor commission recommendations, Mr. Lieberman said.

Earlier this month, Mr. Lieberman and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, crafted a much broader bill that covered all of the commission’s roughly 40 recommendations. Yesterday, Mr. Lieberman explained that he and Mr. McCain had promised the commissioners that they would introduce such a bill to get the ball rolling on Capitol Hill. He noted that some of those recommendations likely will be added to the narrower Collins-Lieberman bill once it reaches the Senate floor.

It is not clear how many commission recommendations the House Republicans will include in their bill, but Mr. Blunt cautioned yesterday, “We don’t have to embrace the specifics of every recommendation.” And Mr. DeLay said the commissioners understand that “their recommendations may not be the total story or the ultimate answer.”

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