WASHINGTON – A House Republican bill to implement the Sept. 11 commission's (search) recommendations could cost almost $15 billion over five years, congressional budget officials said, as the Senate moved Tuesday to finish its version of the legislation.
The Congressional Budget Office (search) -- Congress's non partisan budget analysts -- estimated that the House bill, which creates a national intelligence director (search) as well as increases anti-terrorism, identity the cost us to have a 9/11 event? What would it cost us to have another 9/11 event?" he asked Tuesday.
The speaker said he thinks "$15 billion is a -- and I don't even know if that's correct -- sound insurance policy to ensure that we protect the people in this country."
House leaders plan to bring their bill to the floor Wednesday. Democrats complain that the GOP wrote a partisan bill that fully covers only 11 of the commission's 41 recommendations. They also contend Republican leaders are refusing to let the Democrats offer the Senate legislation instead of what they consider the flawed House bill.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California called the Republican bill "weak where it should be strong," in areas such as security at the nation's ports and railways. "We can do better, and we must," she said.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said the House GOP bill is better than the Senate's.
"What we did is make Americans safer," DeLay said. "We didn't rubber-stamp it, we didn't play politics, we didn't play to the election or to any media. We actually read the report. ... There's nothing in this bill that is not addressed by the 9/11 commission's report or in its recommendations."
House leaders plan to have their bill up for a final vote later this week. The Senate moved Tuesday to also get a final vote on its bill before the end of the week.
Senators, on an 85-10 vote, decided to limit debate and amendments on their legislation. That makes it more likely that the bill could be finished before the Senate's proposed adjournment date of Friday.
The Senate bill -- which the CBO said would cost $700 million before adding the cost of the amendments that senators have added in the last few days -- does not contain the various additional powers in the House version.
If the two bills do not match after final passage, the House and Senate must come together in a negotiating committee to hammer out a version that can be sent to the White House for the president's signature.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chief GOP sponsor of the Senate bill, said Monday that she and chief Democratic sponsor Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., already are meeting with House Intelligence members to try and work out some of the issues.
"I hope that we can complete action this week," Collins said. "If not, then I think we could complete action in October and come back later this month for a day to vote on the conference report."
Pelosi had doubts. The House bill is not compatible with the Senate version, she said, and "it will be hard to see how these bills will be conferenced -- they are very, very different."
Some Democrats say the job of reaching compromise would be easier if the White House would help.
"The president can pick up the phone and tell Tom DeLay and Hastert and say, 'Look, I want the bill and quit fooling around and get this thing narrowed down,' and it's done," Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., told The Associated Press in an interview Monday.
"So, there's no mystery here," Dodd said. "It seems quite clear to me the administration is hostile to the idea."