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Congress rushes to try to finalize 9/11 legislation

WASHINGTON -- Negotiators planned to work until Congress's final moments to get a breakthrough on legislation implementing the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission to protect the nation from terrorism.

Congressional aides repeatedly said yesterday that a deal could be reached, but the House and Senate expected to leave for the year as early as today. That would kill any chance to get a bill approved and sent to President Bush.

''If that happens, it means members of Congress have shamefully abdicated their responsibility to the citizens who elected them," said a statement from the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, made up of victims' families who are pushing Congress to finish the legislation.

Legislators have been working since August to find a way to turn the 41 recommendations of the Sept. 11 panel on how to make the country safer from terrorists into legislation that could be signed by the president.

But House and Senate legislators have deadlocked over how much authority the proposed national-intelligence director position should have over the intelligence budget, as well as what immigration and law enforcement issues should be considered with intelligence reorganization.

Members of the Sept. 11 commission and families had hoped that the pressure of presidential, House, and Senate elections this year would force Congress to approve the suggestions quickly, but the issue did not catch on.

Without a legislative deal, the only major government action on the Sept. 11 commission's report will be Bush's executive orders giving the CIA director more power over the intelligence community, establishing a national counterterrorism center, and promoting intelligence-sharing throughout the government.

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