WASHINGTON -- President Bush's nomination of Representative Porter Goss as the next CIA director could lead to tense confirmation hearings, with plenty of questions about the president's national security record and goals, just weeks before the Nov. 2 election.
Even as some Democrats praised the nomination of Goss, a Republican of Florida, who gave up his role Tuesday as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, others criticized him as inappropriately partisan for a job that requires relaying objective advice to policy makers.
''You must keep the politics out of intelligence," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. ''I'm not sure that has been done here."
''The selection of a politician -- any politician from either party -- is a mistake," said Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. ''Having independent, objective intelligence going to the president and the Congress is fundamental to America's national security."
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, said he was mystified by complaints that Goss was partisan.
''You can disagree with somebody as to the issues from time to time; I don't think that makes them partisan," said Roberts, a Republican of Kansas. ''I don't consider him to be partisan. I've known him for 16 years; that's not a word I would use to describe Porter."
Appearing yesterday on NBC's ''Today" show, Roberts said ''I think we're all politicians in Congress" and said service in the national legislature shouldn't be a disqualifying factor.
''We're going to have hearings the first week of September. We're going to try to expedite this. I think he will be confirmed," he said. ''The Democrats have questions. We'll keep it civil."
Roberts said yesterday that he expected Goss to be confirmed, and the New York Times reported today that a dozen Senate Democrats interviewed by the newspaper said they would not fight the nomination.
Meanwhile, Goss announced yesterday that while his nomination is pending, he is stepping down as chairman of the House intelligence panel to avoid any conflicts.
''I do believe it is appropriate to remain a member of the committee," Goss told colleagues yesterday morning at the outset of a hearing on the report of the Sept. 11 commission.
Representative Sherwood Boehlert, a Democrat of New York, presided at the hearing, at which Sept. 11 commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton were testifying. ''Let us hope that partisanship won't rear its ugly head during the Senate proceedings," Boehlert said of Goss's pending confirmation hearings.
Political jostling about the Sept. 11 commission's proposals intensified yesterday as Democrats and Republicans differed on the idea of creating a new national intelligence director -- and how fast to do it.
Republicans echoed concerns from Defense Department officials that a ''czar" endowed with too much authority could hurt intelligence efforts, while several Democrats joined the leaders of the Sept. 11 commission to endorse speedy changes.