- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2002

The Senate will not complete action on its bill to establish a Department of Homeland Security before leaving for the August recess, drawing a rebuke from Republicans who said that means a final compromise can't reach President Bush by September 11.
The schedule now calls for senators to take up the bill, which the Governmental Affairs Committee approved 12-5 last week, at the end of the week, and make it pending business when senators return after Labor Day.
"There are a host of issues on the floor that have taken us a lot longer than we had hoped," said Ranit Schmelzer, spokeswoman for Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
The Senate has spent a week trying to pass a prescription-drug bill, and Mr. Daschle wants to approve the defense spending bill before the break.
Ms. Schmelzer also said the bill faces a filibuster if taken up now, and although she would not specify who would block the bill, two Democratic senators have urged a go-slow approach.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia has said he wants to ensure the bill doesn't alter the balance of power between the legislature and the executive branches, and Sen. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina says the president's plan would create a huge bureaucracy without solving critical intelligence issues.
But Republicans said the homeland security bill should be a "top priority."
"Every American deserves to feel safe within our borders," Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Senate Democratic leadership will not allow the Senate to complete action this week to organize and mobilize the nation's resources at every level to protect America from terrorist attack."
The bill would transfer 170,000 employees from all or parts of 22 existing agencies to the department, which would have a budget of $38 billion.
The House passed its version 295-132 at 10 p.m. Friday, just before members began their summer recess, and House Republicans criticized Senate Democrats yesterday for not following suit.
"We're disappointed that the Senate is taking longer to complete their work, but it is not surprising," said Richard Diamond, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. "We will do what it takes to get the homeland bill done as soon as we can."
Still, the White House has been downplaying the importance of meeting the September 11 deadline.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Fred Thompson from Tennessee, the top Republican on the Government Affairs Committee, said yesterday that Mr. Thompson believes meeting the first anniversary isn't as important as getting the bill right.
"He really is not concerned about the artificial deadline of September 11," Michelle Semones said.
House Republicans said they had hoped to have each chamber's bill done by early August and hold informal meetings during the recess so a compromise would be ready to go when lawmakers return after Labor Day.
But if the Senate bill isn't final, outstanding differences, such as union protections and the structure of the existing White House homeland security director's position, can't be negotiated, House aides said.
Ms. Schmelzer said the Senate has to overcome more obstacles.
"The Republican leadership in the House was able to jam something through over the objections of many in their party, as well as Democrats that's not how it works in the Senate," she said.
Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, has been one of the strongest voices calling for final action before the deadline.
"I continue to believe that we should aim for a goal of September 11 in tribute to the families who lost people," he said even before Mr. Bush sent his proposal to Congress in June, and he has reiterated that goal in the weeks since.
Mr. Gephardt's press office didn't return a phone call for comment.

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