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Thursday, February 26, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
House speaker nixes 9-11 panel's request for later deadline
By Reuters and The Washington Post
Hastert, R-Ill., said granting the commission's request for a 60-day extension would politicize its final report at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign, spokesman John Feehery said. Hastert rejected a plea from White House chief of staff Andrew Card to reconsider, Feehery said.
The commission says it needs the extra 60 days to complete hundreds of interviews and review millions of documents. Despite initial objections, President Bush backed the panel's request earlier this month.
Democratic congressional aides said Bush halfheartedly supported the extension and put little pressure on Hastert to back down.
Republican commission member John Lehman, a former Navy secretary, said Hastert's opposition was "unacceptable" and suggested that the panel would continue its work with or without an extension.
"Even if we have to sit and do this on our own time with our laptop computers, I think that would be the inclination of most commissioners," Lehman said. "Unless the government takes away our security clearances, we will keep working until this is done. This is too important not to."
The bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States has battled the Bush administration for more than a year over access to classified material and witnesses. Commission members say that has caused delays that threaten to undermine the credibility of its report.
Commission Chairman Thomas Kean, a Republican and former New Jersey governor, said he remains hopeful that Hastert will change his mind.
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