WASHINGTON – A lawmaker said Monday he will try to keep the impasse over the homeland security bill from derailing plans to create an independent commission to look into the Sept. 11 attacks.
Rep. Tim Roemer said he wants House-Senate negotiators to create an independent commission as part of the intelligence authorization bill they're considering this week.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to include the commission as part of its bill to create a Homeland Security Department. The commission would look at intelligence, law enforcement, aviation, immigration and other issues related to the attacks.
But the homeland security bill has become bogged down in a dispute over workers' rights. The Senate was expected to put it on the back burner Tuesday as it begins considering an Iraq use-of-force resolution.
The House also voted to create an independent commission as part of the intelligence authorization bill it approved in July. But that commission would have a much more narrow scope, dealing just with intelligence issues.
Roemer said he will try to persuade members of the House and Senate intelligence committees to include the commission in their final version of the authorization bill, adopting the broader Senate language.
"We need a vehicle to drive this over the finish line and we think the intelligence authorization bill is the one that will get to the White House in the next few weeks and get signed," he said.
President Bush, who initially opposed an independent commission, now favors it.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., wants to hear details about Roemer's proposal and make sure it doesn't interfere with the passage of the authorization bill, said his spokesman, Paul Anderson. He also wants to discuss it with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Porter Goss., R-Fla.
The commission would follow up and supplement the work of the independent inquiry by the two intelligence committees. The committee is examining intelligence failures leading up to the attacks.
The inquiry begins its third week of public hearings Tuesday with an examination of how intelligence agencies shared information with other government departments.