House 911 inquiry
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House OKs 9/11 inquiry panel
By Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House defied the Bush administration early Thursday morning and voted to establish an independent, blue-ribbon commission to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The surprise 218-189 vote came just before 2 a.m. on an amendment to a bill to fund the nation's intelligence agencies. Twenty-five Republicans defied the White House to support the measure. A number of them came from New York City bedroom communities where many families of Sept. 11 victims live.
Passage of the measure to create a 10-member, congressionally appointed commission is bound to increase pressure on President Bush. "The bipartisan passage of this bill is a significant step forward," said Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind., who pushed the amendment. "I would hope eventually President Bush would step forward and endorse the concept."
Senate backers of an independent commission have been galvanized by the House vote, and relatives of Sept. 11 victims' families are planning a lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill. "It will give us more impetus," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
A "greatly encouraged" Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said he may seek a Senate vote next week on the commission bill that he and McCain have introduced. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., supports it; Lieberman believes it can pass despite White House opposition. "How do you explain how you vote against finding out more about how Sept. 11 happened?" he said.
Bush administration officials have wanted the investigation confined to a joint probe now being conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees. But Roemer, a member of that inquiry, says it will not be broad enough: "We will not have the time or jurisdiction to look at the Federal Aviation Administration, the transportation safety agency, safety of shipping containers or a whole host of other things."
Some family members of Sept. 11 victims suspect that the congressional investigation will be a whitewash. "Congress can't do this. We need somebody to investigate Congress," said Steve Push, whose wife was aboard the hijacked plane that terrorists crashed into the Pentagon.
The proposed commission still has many parliamentary hurdles to overcome, and McCain said opposition remains strong. "The bureaucracies don't want to be investigated," he said. "That's the main obstacle."