Both chambers overwhelmingly passed a reconciliation bill that implements several remaining recommendations from the 9/11 commission. The Senate passed the conference report late last night 85 to 8. The House passed the report today 371 to 40. The White House hadn't said whether it would sign or veto (though most indications were for the former), but both majorities are veto-proof.
The bill requires that within five years all ship containers be scanned for nuclear devices before they leave foreign ports for the United States, but it has not issued a veto threat and also requires the screening of all cargo on passenger aircraft within three years. Furthermore, the bill would change the formula for distributing federal security grants to ensure that high-risk states and urban areas get a greater share. Lastly, the legislation creates a $3.3 billion program intended to help communities improve the ability of different emergency agencies to communicate in an attack or catastrophe.
The Senate also passed last night the homeland security appropriations bill 89 to 4. Though the White House issued a veto threat because it exceeds President Bush's spending goals, the vote is clearly veto-proof. The measure will have to be reconciled with the House version.
Lastly, by a vote of 281-142, the House also approved today a law enforcement spending bill for the fiscal year starting on October 1, which the Senate has not yet debated. The legislation explicitly prohibits the FBI from initiating a national security letter in a way that skirts the law by restoring a standard requiring that records being sought are "related to a suspected terrorist or spy" and recipients of the letters would be allowed to challenge the letter and its nondisclosure requirement. President Bush has said he will veto the measure.
The 9/11 panel bill is the second major piece of legislation, along with the minimum wage increased, promised and passed by Democrats that will become law. Lobbying/ethics reform and student loan bills should be soon to follow.