WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday approved a two-month extension for the commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks, but the legislation faced an uphill battle because the leader of the House of Representatives opposes it.
The Senate intelligence panel on a voice vote approved a bill that would give The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9-11 Commission, an additional $1 million ($1.47 million) and shift its deadline to July 27 to complete its final report about the circumstances surrounding the hijacked plane attacks that killed about 3000 people.
"It's critical that we understand the complete set of events that led to 9-11," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said in a statement.
"Giving the commission two more months is a reasonable request and has bipartisan support," the Kansas Republican said.
But the legislation faced opposition from House Speaker Dennis Hastert who does not want an extension beyond the current May 27 deadline because it would delay the recommendations and potentially politicize the findings which would be released in the heart of the presidential campaign, a spokesman for the Illinois Republican said.
"The speaker does not like the bill and would oppose it because it delays the recommendations from the commission which he thinks are needed as quickly as possible," John Feehery, spokesman for Hastert, said.
It was also unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, planned to allow the bill to go before the Senate for a vote. A spokesman for Frist said the senator had been in discussions with members of the Senate and the House on the issue.
The White House, despite initial objections, has said it would support an extension.
The commission says it needs the extra 60 days to complete hundreds of interviews and review millions of documents.
"There is absolutely no reason for Speaker Hastert to hold up this extension," Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the intelligence panel, said in a statement.
"By claiming that the independent, bipartisan commission's report may be used against the president in an election year, Speaker Hastert is prejudging the outcome of the commission's work," Rockefeller said. "It truly begs the question, what does he know and why is he intent on preventing the commission from thoroughly doing its job?"