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Senator rockefeller pushes bush on intelligence reform

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NEWS |Thursday, Dec. 2, 2004
Senator pushes reform of CIA
Rockefeller wants intelligence bill passed before end of the year

By RAJU CHEBIUM - Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller says that unless President Bush pushes Capitol Hill leaders to pass an intelligence overhaul bill by yearís end, Congress will lose the momentum to change the status quo.

But the stateís senior senator, Robert Byrd, doesnít think a delay into next year would doom the bill.

The Democrat and seven Republican senators want more time to study the extensive measure before voting on it.

Rockefeller reflected a widely held view that the two House Republicans who thwarted the intelligence bill from winning passage did so for the wrong reasons.

"The president really has to put his cards on the table with his people," Rockefeller, the senior-most Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Monday.

"You have two House Republican members obstructing the will of Congress, the will of the president, the will of the 9/11 Commission, and most importantly, the will and safety of the American people. And they are doing it deliberately and willfully and wrongly.

"If it doesnít happen this year, itís going to be very, very difficult to reintroduce the whole thing next year."

The House and the Senate passed intelligence-reform legislation earlier this year, and a select group of lawmakers, the conference committee, worked out a compromise between the two versions.

But before the Thanksgiving break, GOP House members Duncan Hunter of California and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin voted no in conference.

That prevented the compromise measure from reaching the House and Senate floors for final passage, the crucial step before the president can sign it into law.

The bill incorporated the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that investigated the events leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Among other things, the bill would streamline intelligence gathering and give expanded powers and budget authority to one director, replacing a patchwork of responsibilities presently undertaken by myriad agencies.

But Hunter said the bill would make it difficult for soldiers to receive intelligence. And Sensenbrenner wanted to tighten immigration controls.

Congress is scheduled to return briefly in December to try to pass the bill.

Rockefeller said House leaders are under enormous pressure to reform the intelligence system as soon as possible and quash the dissent from Hunter and Sensenbrenner.

But the West Virginia lawmaker expressed fear that his senior colleague, Byrd, might engage in delay tactics to push a vote on the matter until next year.

Byrdís office downplayed fears of a filibuster by the longest-serving member of Congress.

Byrd and senior Republicans such as John Warner of Virginia and Ted Stevens of Alaska wrote that they were worried the Senate might be forced to vote on an important security matter without being given the time to digest the details.

"We have seen our intelligence community fall down on the job," Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin said. "Before we completely overhaul the system, the senators and the people must have the chance to see what we are reforming.

"If weíre going to do this we ought to do it right."

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