- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

HOUSTON President Bush yesterday slammed Senate Democrats for insisting on union protections for employees of the proposed homeland security department, saying "the enemy doesn't care about these rules; the Senate does."

It was a defiant jab at Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who on Wednesday accused the president of politicizing the debate over Iraq and homeland security. It also reversed a more conciliatory tone that Mr. Bush had taken only hours earlier at the White House.

The barb came as the White House reported progress by the United Nations and Congress on drafting resolutions on Iraq:

•Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told Congress earlier in the day that the United States and Britain have agreed on the elements of a new U.N. resolution demanding that Iraq disarm, and will present specific language for a draft to the other members of the Security Council.

•Mr. Daschle announced last night that the Senate would begin debate on an Iraq resolution next week, but added that the two parties remained apart on the wording of a proposal to back the president in using force against Saddam Hussein.

•Senate Republicans defeated efforts to force a vote on a Democrat-backed homeland security bill that the administration has deemed unacceptable.

Mr. Bush's shot at Mr. Daschle came a day after the South Dakota Democrat demanded that the president apologize for saying that the Senate was "not interested in the security of the American people."

The president, instead, ridiculed Democrats for insisting on arcane rules for employees of the proposed department.

"Customs inspectors cannot be assigned to sensitive jobs unless they're most senior," the president said at a Republican Party fund-raiser yesterday in Texas for Senate candidate John Cornyn. "They can only assign people based upon seniority, not based upon talent that doesn't make any sense.

"You see, the enemy doesn't care about these rules; the Senate does," he added, drawing applause and laughter. "And it bothers me."

Last night, Mr. Daschle came out of a meeting with Senate Democrats and said a resolution giving the president the authority to go to war should be backed by the broadest coalition possible and that this would require further work on the wording.

"We've come some distance. We've got a long way to go before that can be achieved," he said.

The latest White House proposal removes a phrase in its original draft one that would have given the president authority to use force to ensure peace and security in the region. Leading Democrats and some Republicans said the wording was too broad.

Senate Republicans said they strongly backed the latest White House proposal and thought the president had gone far enough in addressing Democratic concerns about its scope. "Any further erosion, I think, is going to be a problem," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.

Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said that with the proposed wording there would be "no daylight between what the Congress stands for and what the president has as his objectives."

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Bush met House Democrats and Republicans in the White House to work on the congressional resolution as Mr. Daschle redoubled his attack on the president.

The Senate majority leader said Mr. Bush is taking a tough stance on Iraq to divert attention from the weak economy before the midterm elections.

"The Republican pundits and Republican advisers have urged the White House to take full advantage of this for political purposes," he told reporters. "Time will tell whether Republicans continue to go to fund-raisers and raise the war or raise questions of homeland security and national support."

Hours later, Mr. Bush did exactly that at the Hyatt Regency in Houston, where he raised $1 million for Mr. Cornyn and other Republicans. But he said not all senators are to blame.

"Don't get me wrong; there's fine senators from both parties that care deeply about our country," the president said. "Senators from both parties are struggling with these issues.

"But it is essential for the sake of protecting America that we not allow special interests to drive the process," he added. "It is essential to give this president and future presidents the ability to move people to the right place at the right time to protect America."

Mr. Daschle said Republicans were to blame for inaction on the homeland security bill, which would move 170,000 federal employees from scores of departments into a new agency directly answerable to the president.

"I just can't believe the Republicans would continue to refuse to allow us to bring homeland security to closure," Mr. Daschle said. "I would consider setting aside homeland security to entertain a debate on the Iraqi resolution."

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, added: "I can't believe that the president or the Republicans are saying, if we can't get our way on the way we are going to treat employees of the federal government who are involved in homeland security, then we don't want a bill."

The president's poke at Senate Democrats during the fund-raiser last night came after he struck a more conciliatory tone with House Democrats at the White House meeting.

Instead of repeating his charge that the Senate was "not interested in the security of the American people," Mr. Bush declared: "The security of our country is the commitment of both political parties."

He praised the work of House Democrats and Republicans in crafting the congressional resolution on Iraq.

"I appreciate the spirit in which members of Congress are considering this vital issue," he said. "Congress will have an important debate, a meaningful debate, an historic debate. It will be conducted with all civility."

As if to underscore the seriousness of the case against Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush said at the fund-raiser: "After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad."

Amy Fagan contributed to this report.

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