- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Homeland security chief Tom Ridge is turning down a bipartisan request from a Senate committee that he testify about the latest White House-Congress difference over the war against terrorism, Mr. Ridge's spokeswoman said yesterday.
The two top members of the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, and senior Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska wrote to Mr. Ridge yesterday asking that he appear before their panel.
Mr. Ridge coordinates the government's anti-terrorism effort at home, though the programs are carried out by dozens of other agencies. Appropriations controls much federal spending, including the $38 billion double this year's total that President Bush has proposed for next year's domestic security programs.
"Your views and insights on the policies necessary to meet these objectives are critical to the committee and the nation," the senators wrote.
Mr. Ridge's spokeswoman, Susan Neely, said he would not testify because he is an adviser to the president, not a Senate-confirmed head of an agency that implements policy.
"Assistants to the president work for the president," Miss Neely said. "And the president has spoken his recommendations to the Senate and House" in the budget he sent Congress last month.
Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin had no comment on Mr. Ridge's refusal until the committee receives the homeland security director's formal response. Asked if Mr. Byrd would compel Mr. Ridge's appearance through a subpoena, Mr. Gavin said Mr. Byrd has not discussed that possibility.
Mr. Stevens' signature on the Appropriations Committee letter makes this appear to be a dispute between the executive and legislative branches over the release of information, not a partisan conflict.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and other Democrats asked questions about Bush administration plans for continuing the conflict in Afghanistan. That prompted some Republicans to accuse Democrats of politicizing the war, while Democrats said they merely wanted details.
Mr. Daschle and other lawmakers also have complained they knew nothing about federal officials who have been working secretly outside Washington since September 11 as a contingency government to guarantee continuity in case of a devastating attack on Washington.
The "shadow government" was revealed last week by The Washington Post, and a GOP lawmaker criticized the secrecy surrounding it yesterday.


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