- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

DES MOINES, Iowa President Bush yesterday urged lawmakers not to let a "turf battle" derail his proposal to create a new department to secure Americans from another terrorist attack, but seemed to relish the prospect of a good dust-up on Capitol Hill.
"We've got a lot of work to do to get this department implemented. There's going to be a lot of turf protection in the Congress. But I'm convinced that by working together, that we can do what's right for America. And I believe we can get something done," the president said.
"There's nothing wrong with a good turf battle fight. And one way to win that argument is to call upon the good services of effective members of the House and the Senate. And that's what this meeting is all about; it's the beginning of winning the turf battle."
Mr. Bush on Thursday announced a proposal to consolidate more than 100 federal offices nearly 170,000 federal employees into one umbrella agency, the Department of Homeland Security, responsible for collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence and accountable to the president.
Congress has 88 committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction over homeland security, and White House officials fear a battle as some lawmakers seek to keep oversight power.
During a speech to farmers at the 14th Annual Pork Expo in Iowa, Mr. Bush used his Texas rancher lingo to describe what is about to happen inside the Capital Beltway.
"This is going to be a tough battle, because we're going to be stepping on some people's toes," he said. "I understand that. You see, when you take power away from one person in Washington, it tends to make them nervous.
"So we're just going to have to keep the pressure on the people in the United States Congress to do the right thing. I believe it is going to happen," he said to applause.
The new Cabinet-level office would have a $37 billion budget and oversight of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Border Patrol and the Secret Service, among dozens of other agencies.
Mr. Bush noted that President Truman the last president to undertake a government reorganization of this magnitude when he unified the armed forces within a new Department of Defense had a sign on his desk that said: "The buck stops here."
"I believe in accountability in government," Mr. Bush told the farmers. "After all, you will hold me accountable."
To placate grumbling lawmakers, Mr. Bush directed Homeland Security Office Director Tom Ridge to testify before Congress a move the president vehemently has opposed in the past.
Mr. Ridge made clear, however, that he will appear only to discuss the creation of the new department, not to reveal his counsel to the president.
"The president believes very strongly that it's important to preserve the prerogative not only of this administration but of future administrations to have advisers to presidents who are accountable to presidents and accessible to the Congress of the United States as they fulfill their constitutional responsibilities, but not subject to testimony, not subject to the call of the chair," Mr. Ridge said after a White House meeting with the president and congressional leaders.
The concession sending Mr. Ridge to the Hill to testify is an attempt to mollify some lawmakers who say the Homeland Security Office director has too much autonomy. Because Mr. Ridge serves as a presidential adviser, he is not subject to congressional oversight.
Mr. Ridge accompanied Mr. Bush on his trip to Iowa yesterday, but the two were never close enough for photographers to snap a picture. Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Ridge, who gave up the governorship of Pennsylvania to take the White House position, in his Thursday night speech.
After the meeting in the White House, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, said the new department "is exactly what our nation needs now. Look, the fact is that we're at war."
The senator agreed with Mr. Bush that some egos are going to be bruised.
"We're not kidding ourselves. There's going to be some opposition, and it probably will be bureaucratic turf protection. There'll be a lot of arguments about why we ought not to do this," Mr. Lieberman said.
"But I think we've got to try to preserve the feelings of anger and purpose that we had in the days immediately after September 11th today to act together decisively so that we prevent another September 11th-type attack from happening."
Rep. Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, lauded the president for proposing a "bold, courageous" department:
"No one has a corner on wisdom, but I think putting these functions together in one place will help us succeed in the war on terrorism," she said after the meeting.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president is pleased with signs of support from lawmakers who met at the White House. He also said Mr. Ridge and White House chief of staff Andrew Card will appear on talk shows tomorrow to sell the new proposal and Mr. Bush will travel next week to a water treatment plant in Kansas City to illustrate how a new Cabinet agency could better protect the nation's water supplies.
Mr. Bush used the speech to the nation's farmers to mark the one-year anniversary of the enacting of his across-the-board tax cut, credited by many economists with ending the recession.
But he said he will not be happy until every American who wants to work finds a job and Congress makes the 10-year tax cut especially the end of the estate tax permanent.
"For the good of American agriculture, let's make sure that death tax is forever buried and forever done away with," the president said to thunderous applause.
The House voted 256-171 Thursday for permanent repeal, a popular stand among farmers. Mr. Bush called on the Senate to follow suit, and urged his listeners to make their views known.
"What I want you to do is work with members of the United States Senate, so that they do what they did in the House, which is to make the repeal of the death tax permanent," he said. "It makes no sense to tax a person's assets twice, and it makes no sense to have a tax that drives people off the farm."

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