- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

On the eve of the September 11 anniversary, the Senate failed to hold any votes on the bill to create a Homeland Security Department amid signs that Democrats were wavering in their fight with President Bush over union jobs.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said some senators had "asked for leave to travel" to anniversary events and that "no one is prepared to vote" on pending amendments.
While Mr. Daschle was announcing on the Senate floor that no votes on homeland security would be held, the author of the bill, Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, was telling reporters in a nearby hallway how important it was to complete work on the legislation.
The Republican-led House approved Mr. Bush's plan to create a Homeland Security Department in a 295-132 vote on July 26.
Senate Democrats have opposed Mr. Bush's demand for flexibility in removing some union positions for the new department, but their resolve shows signs of weakening.
Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, said he would propose an amendment later this week that would allow the White House to declare some jobs nonunion and would place the burden on the employee to prove in an appeal that the position was not vital to national security.
"I've spoken to union leaders," Mr. Nelson said. "It would not be their first choice. Unfortunately, you may not always get your first choice."
But an administration source said Mr. Bush rejected the proposal in a meeting with lawmakers last week because it would leave appeals up to a labor relations board. The administration official said the proposal is a sign that Democrats are "nervous" about opposing the president on the issue of homeland security.
"One vote could make the difference between having a Homeland Security Department or protecting [Democrats] special interests," the official said.
Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, said he also favors the proposal as "a way out of this."
"It could get us to conference with the House," Mr. Breaux said. "And then it could be modified" to satisfy Mr. Bush.
Republicans say they see indications that Democratic unity is crumbling.
"In the end, they're not going to be able to hold their people," said Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican. "The question's going to come down to, 'Are you with the president or are you against the president?' When you go set yourself in the middle of the road and a big bulldozer's coming along, you either find a way to get out of the way or you get run over. And people don't like being run over."
Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican, said the compromise labor proposal is unacceptable.
"If ultimately, at the end of the day, the final arbiter is going to be the federal labor standards administration or some other independent body other than the president, that's not a good thing," Mr. Thompson said.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, said 14 Senate Democrats voted to give President Clinton the same flexibility in restructuring the Federal Aviation Administration in 1995.
"It's time to stop the demagoguery on the personnel issue," said Mr. Armey. "The same Democrats willing to give flexibility to President Clinton should stand up and be willing to give it to President Bush in a time of war."

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