By Chris Strohm
July 27, 2007The House pushed through sweeping legislation Friday implementing many unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, sending the bill to President Bush's desk for his signature.
The Senate voted 85-8 late Thursday to approve the conference agreement on the bill (H.R. 1). The House vote Friday was 371-40.
"This comprehensive, bipartisan legislation will do many things to make our nation stronger, our cities and towns more secure and our families safer," said Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., a key architect of the bill.
Notably, the bill would require the Homeland Security Department to ensure, within five years, that all U.S.-bound ship cargo is scanned at foreign ports. The department could give deadline extensions to ports that need more time to comply.
Industry made a last-minute push Friday against the 9/11 bill. In a letter to all House members, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it "strongly opposes" provisions dealing with cargo scanning and private sector preparedness standards.
"If enacted, the 100-percent scanning provisions of the legislation would have a crippling effect on global trade, without significantly improving security," the letter said. "The Chamber also objects to the creation of private sector preparedness standards that would impose costs and burdens on the business community without measurably improving preparedness."
At 900 pages long, the bill -- dubbed H.R. 1 to reflect the priority House Democrats have given it -- covers everything from distributing grants to local emergency response agencies to international relations with Pakistan. But Republicans point out that the bill fails to implement at least one key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission: consolidating congressional oversight of homeland security affairs.
By Chris Strohm
July 27, 2007