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House GOP unveils 9-11 reform bill

From Ted Barrett
CNN Washington Bureau

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9/11 commission co-chairman Thomas Kean, left, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. John McCain.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House Republican leadership unveiled a post-September 11 government reform bill that is significantly broader than a bill before the Senate, setting up a potential problem for lawmakers who promised to complete action on the legislation before the November election.

Rooted in the recommendations of the independent commission that investigated the September 11, 2001, attacks, the bill aims to reform various parts of the government's anti-terrorism operations, beyond just the intelligence community which is where the Senate bill is focused.

"This legislation will be comprehensive," House Speaker Dennis Hastert told reporters. "It will reform the government to make it more effective in battling terrorists."

Like the Senate bill, it will create a National Intelligence Director with "full budget authority," over much of the nation's intelligence budget, Hastert said. It will also create a National Counter-Terrorism Center, a key component of the Senate bill.

But the House bill goes further, including measures opposed by many Democrats that make changes to border security, increase tracking of foreign visitors, and make it easier for law enforcement to monitor and charge suspected terrorists in the U.S.

"They're trying to kill it," a House Democratic aide said about the Republicans decision to include those measures in the bill.

The aide accused House Republicans of never really supporting the commission, much less its recommendations. By loading the bill with controversial provisions, Democrats -- particularly in the Senate -- will be forced to choose between blocking the legislation all together -- and risk being labeled obstructionists -- or voting in favor of reforms they adamantly oppose.

Hastert denied an agreement can't be reached before the election, saying House Republicans will be "flexible" and will work with the Senate to craft a compromise.

"We did our best job fulfilling what we think the commission report was and what the needs of the nation are. The Congress itself is a deliberative body," he said. "We try to bring the best ideas. We use the recommendations from the report. We'll move forward from that point. It's our intent to have this bill done before the election."

The bill hasn't yet been formally introduced, therefore many details of the bill are not available. House Democrats -- who complain they were excluded from helping to write the bill -- are anxiously waiting to get it.

GOP aides said several committees will formally mark up the various components of the bill next week and that floor consideration should take place the following week.

That would leave just a few days for House and Senate negotiators to craft a compromise on the massive bill and meet their targeted October 14 adjournment date.


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