- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

Outraged lawmakers responded yesterday to the attacks on American soil with vows to make war on terrorists and to spend untold billions rebuilding national security and U.S. pride.
"However you describe it, we are at war," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott. "Terrorists are at war with us."
Congress resumed its work, a day after the threat of terrorism closed the Capitol for the first time in its history, to show lawmakers' resolve and unity. Flags at the Capitol flew at half-staff; the public was not allowed inside.
Legislators worked on an emergency spending bill, which could total $25 billion, to help New York recover from the devastation of the World Trade Center and to repair the damaged Pentagon. The House is expected to approve it today.
But the president's request for broad authority to respond militarily to the event met a snag. Republican congressional leaders had hoped to pass today a resolution granting that authority, but negotiations snarled while drafting the bill.
"We want to support the president … but we don't want to cede all responsibility in an unforeseeable future," said one Democratic aide last night.
The new expense also threw into question action on the entire federal budget. Many lawmakers predicted Congress will be less reluctant now to tap the Social Security surplus.
"We can't start putting dollar signs on this issue I believe we are at war," said Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican.
Congress approved a resolution condemning the attacks, declaring a national day of mourning and vowing to "eradicate terrorism."
But there was less agreement on how to respond.
Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, urged his colleagues to consider a declaration of war against nations that have aided Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born terrorist whom many believe masterminded the attacks.
"While the Congress should never act precipitiously, I do suggest that consideration be given to a declaration of war against the political entity which harbors, has given aid and assistance to, bin Laden's terrorist organization and bin Laden and his co-conspirators," Mr. Specter said.
Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, picked up three new co-sponsors for his bill to lift the ban on U.S.-sponsored assassinations. President Clinton ignored the same measure in 1998, when Mr. Barr told the president the bill could eliminate the threat of terrorists "such as Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein." Even liberal Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said he would be willing to consider it.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, Nevada Democrat, warned terrorists: "We will find you. We will rid the world of the stench of your existence."
Several top Senate Republicans are pursuing a national-security package that would give the FBI and the CIA more authority to conduct counterintelligence, such as enhanced wiretapping capabilities.
"We need to look at a counterintelligence package that gives more leeway to deal with these issues," said Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican.
But many Democratic lawmakers seemed reluctant to grant new powers to the nation's spy catchers.
"I don't want to become a police state," said Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat.
Mr. Lott said the United States must respond aggressively, even if it means killing innocent foreign civilians in a military attack.
"People need to understand that we are not going to let that hold back our taking actions," Mr. Lott said. "Even if it means collateral damage. We have got to take extraordinary actions."
Democrats pledged their full support for President Bush.
"You are either with America in our time of need or you are not," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.
But Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat and assistant majority leader, went a step further by proposing to create a Cabinet-level anti-terrorism czar. Mr. Schumer said lawmakers should wait for specific proposals from the president.
"It's a good idea to at least start with the presumption that you strongly get behind what the president proposes," Mr. Schumer said.
Various lawmakers offered proposals to centralize some federal agencies in a sort of "homeland defense" department.
"We need to raise our defenses here at home against the kind of insidious actions we saw [Tuesday]," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman C. W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, said the emergency bill also would go to shoring up airport security at airports, the nation's embassies abroad and in unspecified intelligence operations.
As lawmakers began to grapple with the massive job ahead, they pledged determination.
"We will never be the same as a nation, that is true," said Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican. "We will be a better nation. We will be a stronger nation if we step up to meet this challenge."
John Godfrey, Audrey Hudson and Jonathan Oliver contributed to this report.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide