WASHINGTON -- President Bush will make a final appeal to Congress to find a way to pass legislation before the end of the year that would make many of the Sept. 11 commission's terror-fighting recommendations law, White House officials said yesterday.
Bush plans to send a letter to congressional leaders outlining his wishes on stalled legislation to create a national intelligence director position to coordinate the nation's spy agencies and to enact other antiterror measures. The House and Senate return next week.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, refused to bring a House-Senate compromise up for a vote two weeks ago after two House chairmen, GOP Representatives Duncan Hunter and James Sensenbrenner, opposed the solution.
Hunter, a Californian who heads the Armed Services Committee, said the intelligence realignment could interfere with the military's chain of command. Judiciary chairman Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin, said the bill also should deal with illegal immigration.
Representative John Doolittle, a Republican from California and secretary of the House Republican conference, said yesterday he doesn't expect a vote on the bill unless Hunter is satisfied.
''Frankly the members of our Republican conference have tremendous confidence in the integrity and the knowledge and the dedication of Duncan Hunter to the armed forces, and if he is uncomfortable enough with that bill to the point of opposing it, they're going to follow his lead," Doolittle said.
Bush's letter will ''talk a little bit more about some of those remaining issues that are being discussed as we move forward. And I think the president will continue to talk about the importance of getting this done now," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday.
''Congress has made a lot of progress, and now is the time to get this legislation passed. I think he will talk about the importance of preserving the chain of command in department and agencies."
Bush telephoned Hastert and Senate majority leader Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, on Thursday and told them he wants an intelligence bill completed.
At the White House, Bush told House and Senate members yesterday that ''he's working on it as hard as he can," said Senator Michael Enzi, a Republican from Wyoming. ''We've talked to other people who are working on it, progress is being made, and we hope that it can be finished up [next] week."
Senate negotiators said Thursday they expect Bush to endorse the compromise and pressure Hastert to bring it to a vote, despite Hunter and Sensenbrenner's opposition.
The president's task may have been made easier Thursday when the nation's top military officer said lawmakers had dealt adequately with a provision in the bill that he had objected to publicly.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said his objection to the compromise bill was resolved. He asked last month that the bill keep money for combat support agencies flowing through the Pentagon instead of going through the proposed national intelligence director.
''The issue that I specifically addressed in a letter to chairman Hunter has been accommodated, I'm told, in the bill," Myers said.
The general still refused to endorse the compromise.