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Washington in brief

9/11 panel, White House reach deal

By Wire services
Published November 13, 2003

WASHINGTON - The independent commission on the Sept. 11 attacks announced an agreement Wednesday with the White House that would allow the review of classified intelligence documents previously withheld by the Bush administration.

The 10-member panel will designate a subcommittee that will examine the most sensitive documents and report back, commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste said. The four-person subcommittee will review some of the documents, but only two of those four commissioners will review others. The commission has not appointed the subcommittee.

"We believe this agreement will prove satisfactory and enable us to get our job done," a statement by the commission said.

The White House was pleased by the development. "We look forward to the recommendations to make America safer," spokeswoman Ashley Snee said. At President Bush's direction, she said, the White House "has been working closely with the commission to ensure they have the information they need to be successful."

Senate sends $401-billion defense bill to president

WASHINGTON - The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a $401.3-billion defense bill that gives the Pentagon greater control over its civilian work force and eases environmental restrictions on the military.

The bill authorizing 2004 defense programs goes to President Bush for his signature.

Democrats joined Republicans in the 95-3 vote, despite their objections to the broader Pentagon authority. They stressed the measure would provide new benefits to active duty soldiers and veterans.

But the bill was opposed by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who said it "transfers vast, unchecked powers to the Defense Department while avoiding any break with the business-as-usual approach to increasing defense spending."

The bill is $1.5-billion more than the amount request by Bush and about 2.2 percent more than Congress approved last year. It was approved by the House on Friday in a 362-40 vote.

The bill also allows the Air Force to lease 20 Boeing 767 planes as midair refueling tankers and buy 80 more. MacDill Air Force Base will get 32.

Amtrak gets $1.22-billion, negotiators decide

WASHINGTON - House-Senate bargainers have agreed to give Amtrak $1.22-billion for the new year, close to what railroad officials say they need to keep trains running and maintenance projects on track.

The money was to be included in a compromise $90-billion measure for transportation programs, the Treasury Department and several smaller agencies for the federal budget year that began Oct. 1.

Economy boost also one for Bush in new poll

Public approval of President Bush's handling of the economy has increased amid signs that the economy is recovering, according to a poll out Wednesday.

Half in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll approved of Bush's handling of the economy, up from 43 percent who approved two months ago. Bush's overall job approval was at 51 percent, with 44 percent not approving. That's largely unchanged from that same poll two months ago - when he was at 49 percent.

The poll of 1,003 adults was taken Nov. 8-10 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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