Work steps up on Sept. 11 panel’s advice

WASHINGTON – A Senate panel that planned to begin hearings next week on the intelligence overhaul recommended by the Sept. 11 commission will instead hold its first session on Friday.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Tuesday that the Sept. 11 commission should continue working another 18 months to ensure that its proposed reforms are adopted, a challenge embraced by the bipartisan panel.

Senate Governmental Affairs Committee spokeswoman Jen Burita said Tuesday the hearing session was moved up to accommodate the schedules of the commission’s two leaders, who will testify: Republican Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey, and retired Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind.

The Senate hearing is all but certain to be Congress’ first on the commission report. Several other House and Senate committees are also planning hearings, underscoring the sense of urgency congressional leaders are trying to project at a time when lawmakers have just started a six-week recess.

Last week, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, said they planned to begin their hearings next week.

Burita said Friday was chosen “because it was the day we were able to get both co-chairmen together.”

Senate leaders have asked committees to produce legislation by Oct. 1. House leaders, after initially saying the process could take some time, directed their committee leaders to have bills ready in September.

President Bush has assembled a task force to review the 10-member panel’s work. Kerry has said Bush should implement the proposals immediately, and the commission should issue progress reports every six months, beginning in December.

Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission, said Kean supported the idea of the commission having additional time to continue its work.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Monday that Bush may act this week on the report, but she would not say which of the 40 recommendations he was likely to adopt or if he would make his own proposals.

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