- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

With Congress moving toward adjournment this week or next, the Bush administration yesterday began a final campaign to press Senate Democrats in particular, Majority Leader Tom Daschle to permit a straight up or down vote on the president's proposal to create a Department of Homeland Security. Every member of President Bush's Cabinet signed a letter to Mr. Daschle and Minority Leader Trent Lott stating that the Senate was jeopardizing the creation of the new department by denying Mr. Bush the statutory authority, held by every president since Jimmy Carter, to exempt employees in the department from union control if he determines that it would impede their "primary function of intelligence, counterintelligence or national security work."
In their letter, the 14 Cabinet members noted that the homeland-security measure currently before the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman with the strong support of federal employee unions, would impose labor rules on the president "that do not apply to any other department." For his part, Mr. Bush's counter-offer (which is essentially the same as legislation passed by the House with the support of many Democrats) is hardly unreasonable. He would leave employees of the new Department of Homeland Security with the same protections currently enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of workers at such agencies as the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and the offices of Enforcement and Intelligence at the DEA.
Indeed, Mr. Bush's proposal gives homeland-security employees even greater civil-service protections than Congress granted employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) when it voted to create that agency late last year just weeks after the September 11 attacks. "The [presidential] flexibility called for in the president's request for legislation that establishes the Department of Homeland Security was critical," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said yesterday. "The enemy is fast and nimble, and we must be, as well."
Unfortunately, Messrs. Daschle and Lieberman and the overwhelming majority of Senate Democrats don't seem to have received the message yet. Sens. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, and Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, who have put forward a compromise proposal supported by Mr. Bush, remain locked in a bitter parliamentary struggle with the Senate Democratic leadership, which has fought tenaciously to deny Mr. Bush a straight up or down vote on Gramm-Miller. Then there's the Robert Byrd factor. Last week, Mr. Daschle prevented the irascible West Virginian from using Senate procedural rules to prevent debate on an Iraq resolution. Mr. Byrd, who is adamantly opposed to the creation of such a department, is expected to try the same type of delaying tactics when debate on the Senate homeland security bill resumes this week.
There's also the money factor. Data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that, during the current election cycle, public employee unions have contributed $230,000 thus far to just three of the most endangered Democratic Senate incumbents: Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Max Cleland of Georgia and Jean Carnahan of Missouri. Much as they like the campaign loot from Big Labor, these Democratic senators know they may pay a heavy price if they continue to join the unions in sabotaging the president's homeland-security proposal.


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