9/11 proposals top Congress agenda

Bipartisan group offers bill as session resumes

September 08, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - An influential bipartisan group of members of Congress, backed up by leaders of the Sept. 11 commission, announced yesterday that they were offering a bill in the House and Senate to enact virtually all of the commission's recommendations, including its call for creation of the post of a national intelligence director to oversee all of the government's spy agencies.

The sweeping legislation was immediately embraced by the commission's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, who appeared at a Capitol Hill news conference to announce the introduction of the bill. Kean described the legislation as "our dream" and said the bill, which would also restructure congressional oversight of intelligence issues, could "make the American people genuinely safer."

The bill is being offered in the Senate by John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, and bipartisan sponsors announced yesterday they would introduce an identical bill in the House. Other Senate sponsors included the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is a member of the Armed Services Committee.

The bill's introduction on the first day Congress was back from summer vacation - and four days ahead of ceremonies to mark the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks - added to the momentum on Capitol Hill and at the White House to move quickly on legislation to respond to the Sept. 11 commission and restructure the way the nation gathers and shares intelligence.

McCain and Lieberman were the main sponsors of the legislation that created the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission in late 2002 over the initial opposition of the Bush administration.

Congressional leaders, under what some acknowledge is intense election-year pressure to act on the unanimous recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, have vowed to pass some sort of legislation before Congress goes into recess ahead of the general election in November. They ordered House and Senate committees to return to Washington in August to meet throughout the traditional summer holiday to weigh the commission's findings.

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