Problems loom in reconciling House, Senate intelligence overhaul bills

House Republican leaders increasingly are under attack for including a number of provisions not included in the Senate version of the bill.

With the Senate poised to approve a bipartisan intelligence reform bill Thursday -- and the House soon to follow with a final vote expected Friday -- leaders in both chambers remain confident Congress can deliver a bill to the White House before Election Day.

A Senate GOP leadership aide said Tuesday that Senate leaders are eyeing an Oct. 22 completion date for the conference report, in order to reconvene members for a final vote before Nov. 2.

But significant differences in the two versions could force conferees to punt on a final vote until the lame duck session in mid-November.

House Republican leaders are increasingly under attack for including a number of provisions not included in the Senate version of the bill.

House GOP leaders and committee chairmen will hold a news conference today to criticize what they see as shortcomings in the Senate version of the bill and make the case that their version of the bill will improve national security.

The House leaders also will defend provisions that have drawn a swarm of criticism in recent days over how they would affect civil liberties. The Senate has no similar provisions and has yet to embrace the House position.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a leading critic of immigration provisions included in the House bill, issued a statement Tuesday calling on Congress to remove the provisions.

"A bill meant to implement the bipartisan 9/11 Commission's recommendations should do just that," Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington legislative office, said in a statement.

"Unfortunately," she said, "the House leadership has decided to laden its bill with many provisions not called for by the commission, but long sought by extremists. If the House is serious about intelligence reform, it must reject these unwarranted assaults on immigrants."

Several House GOP aides took issue with critics Tuesday. "The only thing controversial about these provisions is the fact that some people are calling them that," said one aide, arguing that the controversy comes from a "misinformation campaign" by Democrats and outside groups.

However, Senate sources say that chamber is reluctant to take up controversial provisions in a bill that so far has progressed with uncharacteristic bipartisanship.

A Senate GOP leadership aide suggested Tuesday that House Republicans are staking out an isolated position.

"The House Republican leadership has opposed creating, funding, extending and cooperating with the 9/11 Commission," added a Senate Democratic leadership aide. "They have no credibility on the 9/11 reforms."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., downplayed the conflict between the two chambers, telling reporters, "From my standpoint and from the standpoint of the speaker, there is no adversarial position."

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, also seemed confident Tuesday. "We're going to go to conference, and those members that have volunteered to be on the conference will be instructed to work and work out the differences between the House and the Senate, and if they get something -- no matter when they get it -- we'll come back and vote on it," he told reporters.