9/11 Commission, Victims' Families Pressure Lawmakers to Pass Intel Reform

During their grim reunion at a news conference today, members of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 commission -- now officially dissolved -- pleaded with House Republicans to stop blocking the intelligence reform bill that would coordinate the nation's spy agencies.

"Our request to our nation's leaders today is: Give us a vote. Pass this bill," said former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, who served as chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. "Reform is an urgent matter, and reform simply must not wait until after the next attack."

If passed, the legislation would, among other things, create a new national intelligence director with budgetary control over all aspects of the nation's intelligence agencies.

"The window of opportunity for reform will not stay open long," said the panel's vice chairman, former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana.

Some families of 9/11 victims are now making daily trips to Washington to make their voices heard.

"We hear continued pointed threats from the terrorists, yet a strategic plan to make our country safer is in limbo," said Mary Fetchet, whose son Brad died in the World Trade Center. It was Fetchet who pushed lawmakers to establish the commission in the first place.

If Congress fails in the next few days to create a new system for coordinating the nation's intelligence, the new Congress will have to start from scratch next year.

Commissioners today asked Vice President Dick Cheney to get more involved. President Bush, on an official visit to Canada, insisted he is pressuring his fellow Republicans to act.

"I want a bill," Bush told reporters in Ottawa today. "Let's see if I can say it as plainly as I can. I am for the intelligence bill."

But some Republicans say they still are not sure how strongly Bush supports the bill.

"Ultimately if we don't have a vote on Sept. 11 [intelligence reform], it will be my feeling that the president didn't weigh in strongly enough," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.

Congressmen Block Bill

The legislation is being blocked by two committee chairmen: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who argues the bill dilutes the power of the military, and Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who wants to deny driver's licenses to illegal immigrants by demanding national standards.

Some 9/11 family members support that idea.

"No bill should pass this Congress unless it includes border security and driver's license measures," said Peter Gadiel, whose 23-year-old son, James, died in the World Trade Center.

But many states oppose the driver's license provision. Republican leaders, who are huddling at a Virginia golf resort this week, are trying to decide whether to drop it.

There are enough votes in Congress to pass the intelligence bill, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has not scheduled the bill for a vote, because he doesn't want to rely on Democratic votes to push it through. Republicans now worry the intelligence bill is turning into a public relations disaster.

ABC News' Linda Douglass filed this report for "World News Tonight".

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