President Bush pressed Congress on Saturday to pass legislation enacting the Sept. 11 commission’s anti-terrorism recommendations and promised to keep working until there is a bill he can sign.
“I will continue to work with the Congress to reach an agreement on this intelligence bill,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “I urge members of Congress to act next week so I can sign these needed reforms into law.”
The GOP-controlled House will return on Monday to decide whether representatives should vote on a House-Senate compromise to create a national intelligence director position to coordinate the nation’s spy agencies and enact other anti-terror measures.
The Republican-controlled Senate will return if the House passes the compromise.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., refused to bring the legislation up for a vote two weeks ago after two House committee chairmen opposed the solution.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., Judiciary Committee chairman, said the bill should deal with illegal immigration. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who heads the Armed Services Committee, said the intelligence realignment could interfere with the military’s chain of command.
“The legislation I support preserves the existing chain of command and leaves America’s 15 intelligence agencies, organizations and offices in their current departments,” Bush said. “Yet the director of national intelligence will oversee all of America’s intelligence efforts to help ensure that our government can find and stop terrorists before they strike.”
In the Democrats’ radio response, Rep. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said it is Bush’s responsibility to make House Republicans vote on the compromise on Monday.
“President Bush must make clear to House Republican leaders that there is no room for politics on this issue,” said Menendez, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and one of the House-Senate negotiators on the compromise. “He must end the deception and delays of his party and get this bill passed now.”
Menendez accused Hastert of holding the bill up because he’s afraid many House Republicans would vote against it. But with Democratic help, the legislation could pass, he said.
Bush told Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., on Thursday he wants an intelligence bill completed. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the president told him and other lawmakers Friday that “he’s working on it as hard as he can.”
In his radio remarks, Bush said he has done all he can to fulfill the 9/11 commission’s requests without congressional legislation.
“I established the National Counterterrorism Center, where all the available intelligence on terrorist threats is brought together in one place,” he said.
“Just last month, I issued two directives instructing the FBI and CIA to hire new personnel, and to press forward with the transformation of these agencies to meet the threats of our time. But other key changes require new laws.”
It is urgent that something is done before terrorist strike again, Bush said.
“The enemy is still plotting, and America must respond with urgency,” he said. “We must do everything necessary to confront and defeat the terrorist threat, and that includes intelligence reform.”