US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used the Democrats' weekly radio address yesterday to tout her party's passage of legislation to implement major recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
The House passed the bill on Friday on a 371-40 vote, a day after the Senate passed it 85-8. The White House said the president would sign it.
The legislation would shift money to high-risk states and cities, expand screening of air and sea cargo and put money into a new program to ensure that security officials at every level can communicate with each other.
Its passage ranks among the top accomplishments of the six-month-old Democratic Congress. Republicans would say it's one of the few.
"We will have done in six months what previous Congresses failed to do for almost six years," Pelosi said.
"Implementing the recommendations will fundamentally change the way the president and the Congress deal with matters related to terrorism, making us more unified and more effective," she said. "That is because this bill closes loopholes and weaknesses that terrorists seek to exploit.''
The independent 9/11 Commission in 2004 issued 41 recommendations covering domestic security, intelligence gathering and foreign policy. Congress and the White House followed through on some, including creating a director of national intelligence, tightening land border screening and cracking down on terrorist financing.
Democrats, after taking over control of Congress in January, promised to make completing the list a top priority, and Republicans generally went along.
The House passed the original version of the bill on the first day of the current Congress.
The minimum wage increase the Democrats also passed in those first days has just taken effect, but other early priorities -- such as energy reform and stem cell research funding -- remain far from becoming reality. Bush vetoed a stem cell bill last month.
The 9/11 bill would require screening of all cargo on passenger planes within three years. It also sets a five-year goal for scanning all container ships for nuclear devices before they leave foreign ports.
"The threat of terrorist violence against the United States is growing. Al-Qaeda is gaining strength, and Osama bin Laden continues to elude capture," Pelosi said.
"There is not a moment to spare to take the steps necessary to keep the American people safe," she said.