Election Day deadline failing to motivate intelligence reform conferees

House-Senate conference negotiations on intelligence overhaul legislation will head into the first formal meeting Wednesday after a weekend of staff meetings that failed to produce breakthroughs, aides said. A GOP aide said smaller staff groups would continue Monday to discuss sections on immigration, border security and law enforcement.

House and Senate leaders have said they want to adopt a conference report before Election Day. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., left the door open for Congress to take up the legislation during a lame duck session next month. Frist told CNN Sunday he is "hopeful that over the next several weeks we will send a bill to the president."

To keep political pressure on Congress, families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks plan to return to Capitol Hill to hold a news conference Wednesday before the conference meets.

Beverly Eckert, a member of 9/11 Family Steering Committee, said Monday that family members would call on conferees to support the Senate's bipartisan measure. She said House Democrats, the White House and the 9/11 Commission support the Senate bill.

"There is a very small faction that is holding things up," Eckert said, alluding to House Republicans.

President Bush urged Congress Monday to quickly send him a bill that includes the 9/11 Commission's top proposals to create a national intelligence director and counterterrorism center. "These reforms are necessary to stay head of [terrorist] threats," Bush said.

Opponents of the House version have argued the bill contains provisions on immigration and law enforcement that could derail conference negotiations and prevent the president from signing a bill before Nov. 1.

House GOP leaders contend their bill would go beyond creating a national intelligence director and other recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, but are related to the commission's proposals on terrorist travel and identification fraud.

"This conference committee needs to be about more than just creating an NID and a new counterterrorism center because the commission itself asked that we do more," House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio said in a statement.

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