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Bush pushes for passage of intelligence bill

By Sridhar Krishnaswami

WASHINGTON, DEC. 6. Prominent law makers on both sides of the aisle are urging the Republican controlled House of Representatives to pass the intelligence reform measure so that the urgently needed changes can be put in place at the very earliest. The House will return today to see if the measure can pass and if it did the Senate will come back to vote on the compromise already reached.

It is not as if the Republican controlled House `failed' to pass the measure two weeks ago. It was just that the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert would not agree to schedule a vote with conservative Republicans against some provisions of the bill. With Democrats and moderate Republicans in favour of the measure the bill would have cleared if presented for a vote. Now if the House leadership fails to present this bill for the 108th Congress, the bill would have to start from scratch in the 109th session beginning early next month, a prospect that nearly everyone wants to avoid.

Pressure on Republicans

The pressure on the Republican leadership in the House came from the President, George W Bush, who used his weekly radio address on Saturday to push for the intelligence bill.

"I will continue to work with Congress to reach an agreement on this intelligence bill. I urge members of Congress to act next week so that I can sign these needed reforms into law," the President said even as some law makers are not very happy the fashion in which the White House has lobbied Conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill. The bottom line to many has been that if the President `really' wanted this intelligence bill, he will have it.

A Senior Republican law maker, Senator Pat Roberts, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued that national security is more important than turf battles.

"There was a global intelligence failure. We cannot have a status quo. We have got to change that," he remarked.

At the heart of the ongoing dispute is how much power the Pentagon will continue to maintain over the intelligence agencies. The bill gives a central authority that will come to head the intelligence operations more control, a move that hardline conservative Republicans oppose.

And some in the Grand Old Party like House Judiciary Committee Chair, James Sensenbrenner, want to address loopholes in the immigration system that allows illegals, for instance, to get a driver's license.

"The President, who controls both Houses of Congress, should use his power," remarked the incoming Democrat Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid.

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