WASHINGTON – A House Republican bill to implement the Sept. 11 (search) panel's 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 as well as increases anti-terrorism, identity theft, illegal immigration and border security powers, could cost $14.9 billion between 2005-2009.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (search), R-Ill., said it would be worth it. "What does it 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 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."
Some Democrats say the job 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."