- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

In recent days, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has sought to portray himself as a man who would like nothing better than to cooperate with President Bush in creating a new federal Department of Homeland Security to defend against future terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, a careful look at the record suggests that Mr. Daschle has little interest in passing any bill that Mr. Bush could actually sign into law. Rather, in the middle of a war against terrorists who have murdered thousands of our countrymen, he would force Mr. Bush to choose between: 1) the defeat of his proposal to create a new Department of Homeland Security to better coordinate U.S. efforts to respond to future terrorist attacks on the United States; or 2) acquiescing to legislation which would strip him of statutory power, held by every president since Jimmy Carter, to exempt employees in the new department from labor-union control if he determines that such control would interfere with their "primary function of intelligence, counterintelligence or national security work."

In other words, Mr. Daschle, and virtually all of his Democratic colleagues with the exception of Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, want to deprive Mr. Bush of such authority over the new Homeland Security Department in wartime. Unlike their Democratic colleagues in the House, many of whom swallowed hard and ultimately voted to approve a bipartisan bill giving the president the authority he needs to manage the department, Mr. Daschle and his minions are digging in their heels. Or more precisely, Mr. Daschle's union bosses have nailed his heels to the ground and won't permit him to move.

Mr. Daschle has followed a two-part strategy when it comes to Mr. Bush's proposal to create a Department of Homeland Security alternating declarations of his desire to cooperate with the president with strident attacks on Mr. Bush. In August, for example, Mr. Bush urged Congress to give him the flexibility he needs to manage the new department. Mr. Daschle responded by accusing the president of seeking to obtain "dictatorial" powers over the federal workforce.

Last Thursday, with the Senate debate on homeland security precisely a month old, Mr. Daschle vowed that, if the bill was not passed, "we're just going to stay until the election, and then we'll be right back right after the election." On Sunday, Mr. Daschle accused Republicans of seeking to break labor unions and return to the days when presidents could reward "political hacks" with government jobs, while adding that the Democrats were still interested in resolving the dispute with the White House.

Mr. Daschle's interest in resolving this dispute before the election is likely to be put to the test in the coming week if Mr. Daschle seeks to pass a continuing resolution through the election without permitting the homeland security bill to go through. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas will offer his compromise homeland security bill as an amendment to the continuing resolution. This will force a number of Senate Democrats in tight races, such as Max Cleland of Georgia and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, to choose between supporting Mr. Bush or carrying water for Mr. Daschle and organized labor. The blame for this lies squarely with Mr. Daschle, whose insistence on playing partisan games with homeland security has resulted in gridlock.


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