House Said Ready for Anti-Terror Bill Vote

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Congressional negotiators reached a deal Monday with the chief House Republican opponent of legislation revamping the nation's intelligence agencies, clearing the way for a final vote, a House GOP leader said.

The development came as President Bush pressed Congress for swift action, saying the legislation was "important for the security of our country."

Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said House Armed Services chairman Duncan Hunter struck a deal with Senate and House negotiators that will remove his objections to the bill.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert had refused to move the legislation before Thanksgiving because of objections from GOP chairmen like Hunter and House Judiciary chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Sensenbrenner remained opposed to the bill, but House Republicans will likely meet Tuesday to discuss moving forward anyway, Pryce said.

Republican and Democratic aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, also told The Associated Press a breakthrough had been reached, although final language had yet to be crafted.

"We're very close and very optimistic," said a Hunter spokesman, Harald Stavenas.

The development came as Bush prodded Congress to finish work on the sweeping legislation reorganizing the nation's 15 intelligence agencies under a single national intelligence director.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said, "We feel very hopeful that this legislation will get passed this week. ... We believe we can get it passed this week."

Democratic senators also said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., had told them compromise language had been reached.

"I think it will bring enough House Republicans on to cause Speaker Hastert to feel confident to bring up the bill," said Sen. Bob Graham a former Senate Intelligence chairman.

Earlier Monday, Bush pressed Congress to finish the bill.

"I believe we've addressed the concerns, by far, of the majority of the members of both the House and the Senate," Bush said, speaking during an Oval Office meeting with Iraq's interim President Ghazi al-Yawer. "It's a good piece of legislation. It is a necessary piece of legislation. It's a piece of legislation that is important for the security of our country."

Democrats in the House and Senate say the bill to overhaul the intelligence community would pass if Hastert, R-Ill., brings the compromise up as the GOP-controlled House returned Monday for a year-end wrap-up.

Hastert refused to bring the bill to a vote before Thanksgiving because of objections from Hunter and Sensenbrenner.

Aside from the intelligence bill, the House must put the final touches on a $388 billion spending measure that was not completed when lawmakers left town before Thanksgiving.

Hunter has expressed concerns that the intelligence realignment could interfere with the military's chain of command. He wants the bill to ensure that the Pentagon retains direct control over the agencies that operate the nation's spy satellites and analyze that information for troops on the battlefield.

The bill's supporters say it would not interfere with those operations.

Sensenbrenner wants the bill to address illegal immigration and what he sees as loopholes in the system.

If lawmakers fail to pass an overhaul this year, they'll have to start from scratch next year. With the new Congress in January, bills that failed to pass in the current session expire and new lawmakers and committee leaders would have to consider any new legislation.