911 probe panel
Original Source Link: (May no longer be active)
9/11 probe panel on deck?
By Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — A surprise House vote Thursday reopened the issue of how to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and raised the possibility that President Bush might be forced to accept an independent commission he has long opposed.
Supporters of a proposal to create an independent panel plan possible Senate action next week following the House of Representatives' unexpected vote to establish a commission. The 218-189 vote (Related link: Roll call vote) put 25 House Republicans at odds with Bush. A number of them come from New York City's bedroom communities, where many families of Sept. 11 victims live.
The vote represented a desire to go beyond the scope of Congress' ongoing investigation. It could set up the biggest clash to date between Congress and the White House over the war on terrorism.
The White House said a commission would be "duplicative and would cause a further diversion of essential personnel from their duties fighting the war."
An independent commission is viewed by proponents as a way to investigate not only the nation's spy agencies but also others, such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. So far, the only probe of the attacks is being conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees. On Thursday, lawmakers ended hearings for the summer without holding any in public.
Some victims' relatives fear a whitewash. "Congress can't do this. We need somebody to investigate Congress," said Steve Push, whose wife was on the hijacked jet that crashed into the Pentagon. But Senate Intelligence Committee member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Congress "would have the advantage over a commission" because of its power to legislate change.
The measure that the House passed would create a 10-member commission appointed by Congress; two members would be from the victims' families. "The bipartisan passage of this bill is a significant step forward," said its sponsor, Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind.
The vote is bound to increase pressure on Bush. His father, the first President Bush, appointed a commission to probe the terror attack that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, after a similar public groundswell. The panel concluded there were weaknesses throughout the aviation security system.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., might seek a Senate vote next week on the commission. But hurdles remain. Said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: "The bureaucracies don't want to be investigated."