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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

House Speaker Dennis Hastert Addresses Lack Of Intelligence Reform Bill Vote

Aired November 20, 2004 - 16:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT, (R-IL) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: ...and all the members of the conference for their good work on this legislation implementing the 9/11 commission recommendations.
It's hard to reform. It's hard to make changes. Our intelligence agencies are there. They're doing a good job. We want them to do a better job. And these members and their staffs have been working day and night, literally, for a long time to try to get a good law enacted.

Earlier this afternoon, members of the House Republican Conference met to discuss an agreement that was tentative by the conferees. Our members made a lot of arguments. But probably one of the most important arguments proffered by Chairman Duncan Hunter made a compelling argument to many of our members. And I think certainly it takes this cause to think through this.

Duncan was concerned that the proposed reform could endanger our troops in the field who use realtime intelligence to fight the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of us who go home and read our local papers and attend funerals and do those things that are the toughest, well some of the toughest things to do in this job, want to make sure our men and women who serve this country that fight in Afghanistan and Iraq have the realtime intelligence that they need. And that the whole issue of chain of command doesn't defer that. We need to clarify it. We need to work on it. We will continue to do that.

The greatest example of cooperation that we have today is between our troops on the ground and our intelligence assets in the air. We must make every precaution to ensure that when we reform our intelligence agencies, we do so in a way to protect our troops and those people who protect our citizens.

We're going to keep working on this bill. We will not adjourn sine dine. We will ask the negotiators to keep working. We'll ask the president to get involved personally in this issue. And we will get that bill that will reform our intelligence agency as it protects our war fighters and people on the ground. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, is there any sense of the 9/11 families, their disappointment? You promised a bill by the end of this session?

HASTERT: Well, the session's not over yet.

QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, you mentioned immigration, the driver's license issue. Was that an issue as well? HASTERT: Well, that's an issue that some folks raised. I think we really were concerned is if there's a question about the safety of our troops on the ground, we want to make sure that that's cleared up before we do pass this legislation.

QUESTION: This was a bill that you took part in negotiating, the White House played a key role. Were you in favor of the bill that you put before the conference today?

HASTERT: Well, you know, I think, my personal opinion, we covered a lot of the questions out there. Always when you put a piece of legislation together, is the cup half full or is the cup half empty? But when it comes to the question of safety of our troops, I don't think we should have any question at all.

And I think for our members to move a piece of legislation, they have to have confidence that we do no harm, that we actually make sure our troops are safe. And until we have that assurance I think it would be difficult to get this thing passed and into law. I understand there's also some concerns on the Senate side as well.

QUESTION: What do you mean by the president himself weighed in and yet some members apparently remain unconvinced?

HASTERT: Well, there's a question on language, and we'll continue to work on that language. Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: All right. You're listening to House Speaker Dennis Hastert saying they are going to continue to work on this intelligence reform bill. And that the 108th Congress will not adjourn just yet.

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