Frist predicts intelligence compromise this week
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist predicted Sunday that Congress will have an intelligence overhaul bill by midweek, even though the chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees want changes in its current version.
Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, say they want the bill to guarantee that those on the war front would get timely information, while other supporters of the bill -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- say such provisions can wait.
"I think everybody's going to come to the table, and in the best spirit of the way these bodies work, we may work well," Frist said on ABC's "This Week."
"We'll come together, and there will be compromise, but compromise that will be to the satisfaction of the majority of people in the House and the Senate."
Hunter's and Warner's objections follow the opposition of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, though Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers said last week that his objections had been answered.
Some Republicans and Democrats have said the fight is nothing more than a turf war. Under the new bill, U.S. intelligence that is under the Pentagon's control would fall under a central director of intelligence.
The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jane Harman of California, said that Hunter is "misinformed" if he thinks that the new bill will disrupt communications between the battlefield and tactical satellites that help commanders target the enemy.
"Right now, under present law, battlefield commanders control tactical satellites," Harman told CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer." "That would not change under the new bill."
Harman said that Hunter and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican who wants a provision in the bill that would bar illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses, "have been accommodated" in the conference committee that came up with a compromise bill.
"If this bill is put up for vote this week," she said, "it will pass with a bipartisan majority."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he could not ignore Hunter and Sensenbrenner, adding that he thought the bill "can be improved."
"But hopefully we'll get it resolved," he told CNN. "These are serious problems. We ought to get it right."
But Hatch also agreed that the concerns of Sensenbrenner and Hunter had not been ignored.
"There have been a lot of compromises on this bill," he said. "It has come a long, long way."
Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the bill would not "work to the disadvantage of the war fighter."
"In the bill that was introduced in the Senate, in the bill that I introduced along with some members, we preserve the tactical intelligence part of the equation," Roberts said. "And so, I hope we can change their minds."
Concerns cited about delaying bill to next session
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the committee's Democratic co-chairman, said the bill changes nothing about "the chain of command that Duncan Hunter's worried about."
"I'm sorry, this is called the biggest national security problem we've had in a generation," said Rockefeller of West Virginia, also appearing on the CBS program. "And here's a bill that, for the first time since 1947, would change the way we organize and do national intelligence. And the biggest beneficiary of that would be the military since they use the most intelligence."
Should the intelligence bill fail to pass, Roberts said that Congress would pick it up again next year and work to "overhaul the military."
But, he said, "it's sort of disingenuous to me when you have the secretary of defense saying, 'Well, wait a minute on intelligence reform' while he's trying to reform the military in the middle of a war."
"Change is hard," Roberts said. "And this is structural change. But after 9/11, after the House and Senate investigation, after our WMD [weapons of mass destruction] report, after Charles Duelfer and David Kay and the Iraq Survey Group, to say that status quo is fine is beyond me. If it doesn't pass this next week, we will have to start over as of the next session, because it has to happen."
Duelfer and Kay were part of the Iraq Survey Group, which failed to find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Rockefeller said he thought bringing the bill up again next session would be difficult.
"We won't have the momentum of the 9/11 commission in exactly the same way," he said. "We won't have the families of the victims in the same way. We won't have American public opinion. People will be able to say in the Congress, 'Oh, we already tried that, and it failed.' "
Added Roberts, "Unless we have another attack."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told "Fox News Sunday" that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, had sounded optimistic about the intelligence reorganization bill when she spoke with him Friday.
"It's very important," the California Democrat said. "When the 9/11 commission sent its recommendations at the end of July, it did so with a sense of urgency. Every day we delay our country is less safe. Speaker Hastert knows that. The president knows that. They just haven't convinced all of the Republicans."
Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who will be the Senate minority leader in the next Congress, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the bill must be passed before Congress adjourns for the year.
"How can we leave town and not have this most important legislation passed?" Reid asked. "It may not be perfect, but no legislation's perfect. It's something that we need to do, and the people of America are depending on us to do it."
He said Congress should be prepared to "stay through the day before New Year's," if necessary, to get the bill passed.
"The president, who controls both houses of Congress, should use his power," he said. "And he has said that he has power, he has a mandate. Let's let him pull a few bucks out of that pocket of mandate and give it to the House and Senate and say, 'Here is part of my mandate. I want this legislation to pass.' "
President Bush, who initially opposed the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, has been talking to House Republicans and used his radio address Saturday to push for passage.
Reid said the holdup was due to people such as Sensenbrenner and Hunter who "want to maintain power."