Saturday, November 20, 2004

GOP Derails 9/11 Reforms 

Calling all students of back-room Capitol Hill intrigue: l'affaire Specter teaches us that, in the modern GOP, the penalty for deviation from the President's wishes is summary castration. So who wrote the script for this little sham?
In a defeat for President Bush, rebellious House Republicans on Saturday derailed legislation to overhaul the nation's intelligence agencies along lines recommended by the Sept. 11 commission.

"It's hard to reform. It's hard to make changes," said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who sought unsuccessfully to persuade critics among the GOP rank and file to swing behind the measure . . . .

As approved by key negotiators, the White House and the bipartisan the 9-11 commission, the compromise would create a powerful position to oversee the CIA (news - web sites) and several other nonmilitary spy agencies. A new national counterterrorism center would coordinate the fight against foreign terrorists.

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both contacted congressional negotiators by phone in hopes of nailing down an acceptable compromise that could clear Congress in the final hours of a postelection session.

But Reps. Duncan Hunter and Jim Sensenbrenner, chairmen of the Armed Services and Judiciary committees, raised objections. Officials said Hunter, R-Calif., expressed concerns that provisions of the bill could interfere with the military chain of command and endanger troops in the field. Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., wanted additional provisions dealing with immigration, these officials said . . . .

"Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House, and the blame for this failure is theirs alone," added House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

If lawmakers fail to pass legislation this year, they will render moot three months of hearings and negotiations that started with the commission's July release of its report studying the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Lawmakers would have to start from scratch next year — if they even pick up the issue again. With a new Congress taking office in January, unapproved bills expire and new lawmakers and committee leaders would have to consider any new legislation.

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