- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

House Democrats campaigned on a promise to implement the recommendations of the September 11 commission, but now say they will not enact all of them.

The recommendation to place all intelligence agencies under the Defense Department “is not on the table,” said Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

Another obstacle to enacting all the commission reforms as promised is the formula by which federal anti-terrorism money is distributed across the country.

House Democrats are confident they can pass a bill in which funds would be distributed based on risk. Under that plan, the area around New York City and San Francisco would get much more funding than, for example, the area around Topeka, Kan., or Searchlight, Nev.

But such a plan almost certainly will be killed in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Lawmakers there almost always find it difficult to part with money for their police and fire departments or the Coast Guard, regardless of terrorism-risk assessments.

“I suspect the Senate will pass a different version than ours, and we will have to work it out in a conference,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. “We should have a baseline funding of 25 percent for first responders in all 50 states and the rest should go to the areas with the greatest need and that have the most risk of a terrorist attack.”

Another recommendation unlikely to be fully implemented is tasking one House committee with the responsibility of overseeing both intelligence operations and funding. However, Mr. Hoyer said, the plan to create a new subcommittee comprising members from the appropriations and intelligence committees will help.

“The 9/11 commission wanted a single authorizing body for intelligence, and I think the substance or the spirit of the recommendations will be achieved,” he said.

Details are still to be finalized.

“It hasn’t been worked out how the members would be chosen,” said Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat and chairman of the intelligence panel. Whether the chairmen of the two committees or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would pick the members has yet to be decided, he said, but there will be a new panel in some form.

“As I understand it, it’s a final deal. The rest is still being determined,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah, Pennsylvania Democrat and a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Some Democrats oppose the hybrid idea from the outset.

“The question is what impact will it have on the intelligence committee, and it seems it will gut the committee’s authority,” said one Democrat, who did not wish to be named.

Mr. Hoyer said the intelligence panel would still have oversight and responsibility to ensure that intelligence operations are “effective and accountable.”

The Senate will have few problems deciding who will oversee intelligence because “only the Senate intelligence committee can authorize spending for intelligence agencies,” said its chairman, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat.

“Our biggest problem is getting the spending authorization done,” he said. “It’s been two years since we have and we want to do the 2007 as soon as possible and then work on 2008.”

The indecision in the House could become a problem for Democrats’ hopes of convincing the public that they are just as capable of protecting the country from terrorist attacks as Republicans.

And Republicans are eagerly waiting to see whether Democrats will finally concede that many of the remaining September 11 commission recommendations shouldn’t be enacted.

“I think what Democrats are finding in some of the 9/11 recommendations we didn’t implement, looking closely at them … these are not good ideas,” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican and his party’s ranking member on the intelligence panel.

He said the hybrid committee is unnecessary if both the Appropriations Committee and the intelligence panel chairmen pledge to have the same budget priorities.

“That is what I did with Representative Jerry Lewis [California Republican] when I was intelligence chair and he was appropriations chair in the last Congress, and it worked fine,” Mr. Hoekstra said.

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