House sets stage for clash on intelligence reform bill

GOP leaders reject efforts to follow plan of Senate

The Nation

October 08, 2004|By Mary Curtius | Mary Curtius,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - House Republicans late yesterday easily defeated an effort by Democrats to pass an intelligence reform bill modeled on one adopted by the Senate, setting the stage for a showdown between the two chambers over their competing legislation.

The spirit of bipartisanship that animated the Senate's eight-day debate over a sweeping overhaul of the nation's Cold War-era intelligence structure evaporated as soon as the House debate began yesterday.

Although the White House, in a policy statement, criticized the House bill for failing to give the new national intelligence director enough authority, Republicans insisted that their legislation would make the nation safer. The Republican leadership predicted its bill will pass easily today on what is supposed to be the last day of the session.

"It's not a good feeling on the House floor," said Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, who had joined Democrats in crafting the substitute the Democrats proposed to the Republican leadership's bill. The substitute was defeated by a voice vote.

Acknowledging that Democrats face a political dilemma as they ponder whether to vote against a security-related bill so close to the Nov. 2 election, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said that although she intended to vote against it because "I think the bill is wrong," she is "not encouraging others" to follow her example.

If the bill authored by the House Republican leadership passes, the House still must reconcile it with the very different bill passed in the Senate with a bipartisan 96-2 vote on Wednesday.

Both the Senate and the House bills would consolidate the spy agencies under a national intelligence director, and both would create a national counter-terrorism center. But the House bill would give the director less authority over budgets and personnel, and it would give the counter-terrorism center no role in setting intelligence operations or budgets.

The leaders of the House and Senate have said they will call Congress back in session for a day if a compromise is reached, to vote final passage.

Bowing to White House pressure yesterday, the House leadership said it was prepared to accept amendments addressing two of the more controversial immigration changes included in the intelligence reform bill.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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