WASHINGTON—Republicans and Democrats can't agree on how to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks five years after the tragedy pulled the nation together.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote next week on a resolution marking the anniversary, but Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California are at a standoff over the wording of the nonbinding, purely symbolic legislation.
As drafted, the resolution mourns the nearly 3,000 victims, condemns terrorists, praises the military and law enforcement, and vows vigilance.
But it also lauds several Republican-led legislative moves that Democrats opposed or sought to modify: the USA Patriot Act, which gives law enforcement officials tools to combat terrorism that some Democrats think infringe too much on civil liberties; and the House's border security bill, now stalled, which would charge illegal immigrants as felons.
Democrats want Republicans to strike those and other references to legislation. But, as of Friday, Republicans were holding firm.
"By slashing out all those programs, they stay on message saying, `This is a do-nothing Congress.' That's why they want the recognition of those programs out," Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said. "I think the American people should be very concerned that Democrats are even trying to politically use the 9/11 resolution as a way to gain the majority in November."
Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider countered that Republicans loaded the resolution with controversial references to put Democrats in a box: By signing on to the resolution, they'd be giving those programs their tacit support, but by withholding their names from a 9/11 resolution, they'd be taking a risky political stand.
"It is the worst kind of political posturing on a day that should be sacrosanct," Crider said. "The fifth anniversary of 9/11 is a day we should commemorate with the seriousness and unity that Americans from all walks of life came together with on Sept. 11, 2001."
Unless Hastert and Pelosi reach a truce, Democrats may offer a competing resolution. Then it would be up to the Republican majority to decide whether to let them vote on it or to block it.
The House won't be able to vote on any resolution in time to mark the anniversary, as it's not in session again until Tuesday.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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