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House passes anti-terror bill, sends it to Bush's desk

July 28, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Congress sent President Bush legislation Friday to intensify anti-terror efforts in the U.S., shifting money to high-risk states and cities and expanding screening of air and sea cargo to stave off future Sept. 11-style attacks.

The measure carries out major recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission.

The bill, passed by the House 371-40, ranks among the top accomplishments of the 6-month-old Democratic Congress. The Senate approved the measure late Thursday by 85-8, and the White House said the president would sign the bill.

Six years after the Sept. 11 attacks and three years after the 9/11 Commission made its recommendations, "Congress is finally embracing what the 9/11 families have been saying all along," said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). "It takes a willingness to do things a different way."

The bill elevates the importance of risk factors in determining which states and cities get federal security funds. It also puts money into a new program to ensure that security officials at every level can communicate with each other.

It would require screening of all cargo on passenger planes within three years and sets a five-year goal of scanning all container ships for nuclear devices before they leave foreign ports.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who steered the legislation through the Senate with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said it would "make our nation stronger, our cities and towns more secure and our families safer."

Completion of the bill, six months after the House passed its original version on the first day of the current Congress, was a major victory for Democrats who have seen some of their other priorities -- immigration, energy overhaul and stem cell research funding -- thwarted by GOP and presidential resistance and HouseSenate differences.

Democratic leaders still hope for agreement on ethics and lobbying changes before Congress departs next week.

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