WASHINGTON—House negotiators have agreed to a Senate demand to include money laundering legislation in President Bush's anti-terrorism package, clearing the last major hurdle to passage, senators said Thursday.
Both houses of Congress probably will take up the compromise early next week after aides draft the final version over the weekend, said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill provides law-enforcement officials authority to investigate and track down suspected terrorists, including the use of "roving wiretaps," which allow eavesdropping on suspects not just from one phone but from any phone they use.
It also includes provisions that would make it easier for criminal investigators and intelligence officers to share intelligence.
Despite his earlier objections to making the bill temporary, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft embraced the compromise Thursday.
"I can state unequivocally that this legislation ... will immediately increase our capacity to detect and to disrupt and to prevent acts of terrorism," Ashcroft said.
House and Senate leaders also agreed to compromise on a money laundering bill and to accede to the administration's request that it be linked to the anti-terrorism measure.
The administration considered it an important part of its fight against terrorism because the bill would give the government new tools to block financing of terrorist networks around the world.
With the agreement on the money laundering measure, the most difficult negotiations are over, Leahy said.
"We've just got to work out the details over the weekend," he said.
Work that normally could take a day now requires more time because of the shutdown of the House and Senate office buildings for anthrax testing, Leahy said.
House and Senate members have not decided on the final version of the money laundering plan.
The House Financial Services Committee chairman, Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio), and Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), the Senate Banking Committee chairman, have been working on a compromise on the money laundering language.
The top Republican on the Senate committee, Utah's Orrin Hatch, said the final package will include money laundering language.
The House and Senate versions are intended to fight money laundering worldwide, thwart the financing of terrorism and protect the U.S. banking system from illicit money.
The anti-terrorism measures in both houses would expand the FBI's wiretapping authority, impose stronger penalties on those who harbor or finance terrorists and increase punishment of terrorists.
House leaders insisted on changing the Senate package so the most intrusive of the new measures would expire after a designated period.
Senate leaders insisted on including the money laundering legislation because they feared the House would not pass such legislation that would be acceptable to senators.