WASHINGTON - Supporters of intelligence reform sought to ratchet up pressure on President Bush and the Republican-led Congress yesterday, saying it would be irresponsible and a danger to the nation's security not to pass a comprehensive intelligence bill at a special session next week.
Leaders of the bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks - saying next week presents a window of opportunity that will quickly close - met with Vice President Dick Cheney in an attempt to persuade the White House to come out strong against House Republicans who oppose the bill.
Sens. Susan M. Collins, a Maine Republican, and Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, urged action.
"We believe the prospects are good that intelligence reform legislation will be passed by the House and Senate during the legislative sessions scheduled next week, so that the president can sign a bill before the end of the year," they said in a statement. "As members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, we join our nation's commander in chief in calling for Congress to pass the legislation."
Bush, who was on a two-day visit to Canada, reiterated his support for the bill.
There was little response from the Republican congressional leadership. But backers of intelligence reform appeared to be betting that it would be politically embarrassing for a White House and Congress controlled by Republicans to fail to pass the legislation by year's end.
A group of House Republicans has opposed the bill saying it takes too much authority from the Pentagon and gives it to a newly created Cabinet-level national intelligence director. Others insist that tougher immigration measures be included.
Though the president has endorsed the bill, some say he has spent little political capital pushing Congress to enact it. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, also supports it but has refused to bring it up for a vote - though it would almost certainly pass with Democrats' help - because a majority of House Republicans oppose it.
The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.