- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The White House is resisting calls by Senate Democrats for Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to testify before the Appropriations Committee about anti-terrorism spending.
Mr. Ridge told Republicans and Democrats in separate private luncheons yesterday that he is reluctant to testify about appropriations because various Cabinet members control homeland security budgets, and he does not want to tread on their turf.
An administration official said the White House does not want to set a precedent of having members of President Bush's executive team called to testify before Congress.
"Condi Rice doesn't testify. Andy Card doesn't testify," the official said of the White House national security adviser and chief of staff.
But Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, discussed with Mr. Ridge last month his desire to have him testify. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday said Mr. Ridge should appear before the panel.
"It needs to be resolved simply by his attendance," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "There's no other way to resolve it."
Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin said Mr. Byrd has not decided whether to hold a hearing and has not formally requested Mr. Ridge to appear.
"Senator Byrd thinks Mr. Ridge can offer valuable insight," Mr. Gavin said.
The standoff is renewing the power struggle between the White House and congressional Democrats over homeland-security spending that erupted last fall.
Democrats wanted to add up to $20 billion in emergency spending for homeland security last year, but Mr. Bush promised to veto any spending above the $40 billion that lawmakers already had approved. Democrats failed twice to add the extra money, and some Republicans believe Democrats are now trying to call Mr. Ridge on the carpet over their defeat.
The administration official said Mr. Byrd wants to hear from Mr. Ridge "because he lost. He lost twice in a very public way."
Mr. Daschle brought up the Democrats' defeat in his explanation of why they need Mr. Ridge's testimony.
"We attempted to move the homeland security appropriations last year, and the administration opposed it," said Mr. Daschle. "There are many questions regarding the appropriations aspects of homeland security. Clearly it will involve a commitment in appropriations that I think will take some explanation. No one can do it better than Governor Ridge."
Mr. Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, was tapped by Mr. Bush to head the new office of homeland security after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The White House has proposed nearly doubling spending on homeland security, to $38 billion, under several departments in its fiscal 2003 budget.
Some Republican senators, such as Ted Stevens of Alaska, ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, urged Mr. Ridge yesterday to reconsider. Mr. Stevens told Mr. Ridge that he would be making "a mistake" by not appearing before the committee.
Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said after discussing the issue with Mr. Ridge yesterday that the homeland security director does not want "to go in and talk details and budget."
"He wants the individual agencies that are responsible for those areas within a homeland-security policy to do that," Mr. Craig said. "He didn't want to step on the toes of a Spence Abraham [secretary of energy] or a secretary of commerce or the attorney general. There's too much internal turf out there. He's not going to come in and give [Attorney General] John Ashcroft's budget message."
Mr. Craig said he believes Mr. Ridge should testify before the commitee "in a general sense" about homeland-security policy. If the committee limits questions to general policy, "My guess is he'll go," he said.

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