- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

One of the most irresponsible examples of political obstructionism this year was Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's refusal to permit President Bush a straight up-or-down vote on his proposal to create a new federal Department of Homeland Security. It's an issue that could play a part in several of the closest Senate elections. The Democrats need victories in South Dakota, Missouri and Georgia in order to keep their tenuous majority in the Senate, the only bastion of political and legislative power in Washington that they still control by just a single vote.
In a letter to Mr. Daschle and Minority Leader Trent Lott several weeks ago, every member of Mr. Bush's Cabinet emphasized that the Senate Democratic leadership's homeland-security measure, which had the strong support of powerful unions like the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, would foist labor rules on the president "that do not apply to any other department" of the federal government.
The sad reality is that, in the middle of a war against terrorists who have murdered thousands of our countrymen, Mr. Daschle, apparently with the support of every other Senate Democrat except for Zell Miller of Georgia, has tried to force Mr. Bush to choose between: 1) the defeat of his proposal to create a new Department of Homeland Security to better coordinate responses to future terrorist attacks against the United States; or 2) acquiescing to legislation that would strip him of statutory authority which was held by every president since Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Bush's counteroffer to Mr. Daschle which was essentially the same as legislation approved by the House with the support of many Democrats was 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 federal agencies such as the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency. Indeed, the president's proposal would leave homeland-security employees with even greater civil-service protections than those Congress granted employees of the new Transportation Security Administration when it was created last year.
Sens. Miller and Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, have sought to negotiate a compromise agreement that both sides can live with. But Mr. Daschle continued to bring forward new demands aimed at scuttling negotiations involving Sens. Gramm and Miller on one side, and Sens. Lincoln Chafee, John Breaux and Ben Nelson on the other. While this has been going on, Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, an opponent of any Homeland Security Department, has been filibustering spending hours discussing William Jennings Bryan, Charles I of England, "Gunsmoke," "The Honeymooners," the birds and the bees, and four-legged animals.
That's where Mr. Daschle's obstructionist tactics come in. Data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that, during the current election cycle, public-employee unions have contributed $230,000 to three Daschle allies Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Jean Carnahan of Missouri and Max Cleland of Georgia all of them endangered Democratic Senate incumbents. On Tuesday, their constituents should drive home the message that the president's wartime powers must take priority over campaign contributions and union power.

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