- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

The House last night voted overwhelmingly in favor of a Homeland Security Department proposal that gives President Bush a victory on the issue that had held up the bill for months giving him the flexibility he wants in dealing with labor unions.
The measure passed on a 299-121 vote, with 212 Republicans and 87 Democrats voting for the measure, and six Republicans, 114 Democrats and one independent voting against.
"This legislation meets our requirements and gives the president the authority and flexibility he needs to protect the America people, and we are hopeful that Congress will get the legislation to him by the holidays," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
The bill also is on the fast track for Senate approval. Democrats retain control of the Senate, but their plan was defeated yesterday by a 50-47 vote, and senators also voted 89-8 to end procedural delays.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, yesterday predicted the bill would pass by next week and said he might vote for it himself despite his objections.
The major overhaul creates a 170,000-employee Homeland Security Department and combines 22 major agencies under one roof, including the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Border Patrol, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, the border inspection part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"This is a bill both houses can feel comfortable in passing and sending to the president," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican.
Rep. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, said the bill strikes the right balance in protecting homeland security and worker rights.
"When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge and there is no accountability in the current system," Mr. Portman said.
Among the other provisions in the bill is one that allows specially trained pilots to carry a gun in the cockpit.
However, the creation of a special commission to investigate the events leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks, which had been included in earlier versions of the bill, was scrapped.
"Since September 11, we have been working to rebuild our nation and sense of security the American people have waited too long for this critical legislation," said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican.
The compromise legislation was agreed to on Tuesday after Mr. Bush directed Republican lawmakers to finish the bill before adjourning the lame-duck session.
Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, who will take over as majority leader next year, said Mr. Bush deserves the credit for moving the bill, which has been bottled up in the Senate for six weeks.
"The president said, 'No, homeland security was not just about an election, homeland security is about the security of the people here at home. We're going to do this, you should not leave town.' And we said, 'Yes, Mr. President, you're right, and we're going to get it done,'" Mr. Lott said.
"And I think that the credit will be deserved on both sides for actually finally making it happen now," Mr. Lott said.
Democrats accused Republicans of playing politics with the new department's creation and using it as a tool to weaken labor unions.
"There is an ideological opposition by the president and the Republican Party to bargaining representation and the civil service. The war on terrorism is being used by this administration as an excuse to cut back workers' rights," said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., New Jersey Democrat.
The threat of future terrorist attacks requires the government to reorganize, said Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican.
"We have been given a great opportunity to protect our country and the world. The threat is real, we are at war with terrorists and we must shut them down before they use weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Shays said.
Supporters say the legislation maintains worker protections but creates a flexible and modern work force that can respond to shifting threats to protect the country from terrorists. The compromise agreement allows for union negotiations, but if negotiations fail, there is a process for the secretary to implement changes in policy.

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