Lawmakers charge Bush hampering probe
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
Negotiators plan to meet this week in Washington in another effort to resolve a dispute with the Bush White House over creation of a citizen commission to investigate the events of Sept. 11.
The Washington Post reported that one day after the White House announced a deal to create the commission, the agreement fell apart, and there was almost no agreement on anything, including what caused the disagreement.
According to the Post report, Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., John McCain, R-Ariz., and House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., held a press conference and blamed what Pelosi termed the invisible hand of the White House for scuttling a nearly final accord on the matter.
The White House is professing openly to support an independent commission, (while) privately theyre moving to thwart the commission, Pelosi said.
McCain said senior members of the Senate and House Intelligence committees had a written agreement with the administration to include the plan in an intelligence authorization bill for this year. He said the Republican leadership in the House stepped in and went against the plan.
McCain said it is no secret that the White House works through the House Republican leadership. Lieberman queried: Do you really want to allow this commission to be created? And if you dont, why not?
Stephen Push, spokesman for a group representing 1,300 survivors of 9-11 attack victims, said he thinks the White House does not want such a commission because it fears what that kind of inquiry might turn up.
Every bureaucracy in this town is scared to death of an investigation, said Sen. McCain. Remember, no one has really been held accountable. No one has lost their job, no one has even been reprimanded; nothing has happened as a result of Sept. 11. Unless responsibility is assigned, then we cant cure the problem, McCain added.
Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer denied the White House is trying to sabotage the plan. We are very close to getting an agreement on the 9-11 commission, he said, and the president thinks it can and should be done.
Fleischer said there are two troublesome areas in the proposal; namely, how to handle subpoenas and who should chair the commission. He said Bush would be very disappointed if the Congress allowed these issues to keep the agreement from happening.
Lawmakers want the commission to have the ability for five members to issue subpoenas while Bush wants a bigger number of members to guarantee bipartisan support. One-party subpoenas are a formula for paralysis, Fleischer said. The president also wants to appoint the commission chairman.
Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., said he wants to see an independent commission. He denied he had signed any written agreement on the proposal.
Lieberman and McCain said even if the proposal doesnt go through this year, they will continue to push for it. Its going to happen, McCain said.