House to merge 9/11, transit bills and name conferees

Leadership sources say negotiations could begin this week, with the goal of having the bill ready for floor votes before the August recess.

The House Tuesday will appoint conferees on a massive bill implementing unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, but not before the measure is combined with rail and mass transit security legislation.

Democratic aides said the House Rules Committee was meeting to replace the Senate's 9/11 bill language with a measure that combines the House version of the bill with rail security legislation approved by the House in March.

Senate leaders agreed last week to move forward with the 9/11 bill after Republicans agreed to drop their objections if Democrats dropped a provision in the Senate bill that would have given collective bargaining rights to federal airport screeners. The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it contained the labor provision.

The conference has not been scheduled; issues are still being worked out between the Homeland Security and Judiciary committees on both sides of the Capitol. In addition, a routine effort to rename Senate conferees to the modified 9/11 bill hit a last-minute snag Monday afternoon when Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., raised an objection, saying he had questions about the House rail security measure.

But House leadership sources said negotiations could begin this week, with a target of having the bill ready for floor votes before the August recess. "I don't think [Majority Leader] Hoyer and [Speaker] Pelosi are going to let us leave here without that," said one senior leadership aide.

With Pelosi focused on moving forward with the combined 9/11-rail security bill and Senate action on the Iraq war issue expected this week, House Democrats are not planning a vote this week on any war-related legislation.

But leadership aides said stand-alone Iraq-related votes remain likely later this month, including a largely symbolic measure blocking creation of permanent U.S. military bases there and other measures offered as amendments to the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill. That bill is expected on the floor the week of July 30.

Chris Strohm contributed to this report.