WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Dennis Hastert said yesterday that he expected legislation to be passed this week giving the federal panel reviewing the Sept. 11 attacks more time to finish its work.
Hastert met with the chairman and vice chairman of the commission, Thomas H. Kean, a Republican and former governor of New Jersey, and Lee Hamilton, a Democrat and former congressman from Indiana, to work out final details as to the future of the independent commission.
After the meeting, the three officials agreed to extend the panel's deadline by 60 days to July 26, matching the Senate version of the bill.
The commission also would have until Aug. 26 to wind down its business, a period during which commissioners lobby for implementation of their recommendations and declassify information for public release.
A congressional inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took seven months to declassify information, a process that involves White House approval.
"It was my concern if the recommendations came out in August, September, or October, this merely would become a political football," Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said in a news conference after the meeting.
Sept. 11 is "something we'll never forget, and trying to ascribe blame or play politics in a presidential election, I didn't want that to happen," he said. "But it became apparent they couldn't get their work done."
Congress established the Sept. 11 panel -- officially known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States -- to study the nation's preparedness before the attacks and its response afterward, and to make recommendations for guarding against similar disasters.
The commission was scheduled to finish its work on May 27, but members last month asked for a two-month extension, citing delays because of disputes with the Bush administration over access to witnesses and documents.
"We continue to refuse to accept the status quo with the administration where they want to dictate the terms," said Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. "We need full cooperation and support."