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Senate Passes Homeland Security Bill

Tuesday, 19 November 2002 12:00 AM

Heated differences between Democrats and Republicans, particularly on collective bargaining for the 170,000 employees who will work in the department, marked the debate. But the final vote drew strong bipartisan support.

The vote was 90-9, with former Senate plurality leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., leading the tide of Democrats voting yes. Both legislators had led a failed, last-ditch effort Tuesday to remove provisions that they said catered to corporate interests.

"It took a little longer that we hoped, but here we are, together in support of this bill," Lieberman said after his effort to modify the legislation failed.

"It accomplishes in the end most of the priorities of what the American people wanted us to do. This is a substantive accomplishment. In the new age of insecurity, this should give the American people some of the security they are asking for."

Daschle, who will be the minority leader in the Republican-led Senate next year, said:

"I will vote for this bill because there is no doubt that we need to create a Department of Homeland Security. But we must be honest with the American people. Passing this bill does not solve the problem of terrorism on American soil.

"Creating a new Department of Homeland Security is only one part of the solution. A much greater and far more comprehensive effort is still needed to prevent future terrorist attacks," Daschle said.

He offered no specifics.

The bill will now move to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign the legislation shortly after his return from a European trip Saturday, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. The president will quickly appoint the secretary of homeland security and present a reorganization plan detailing how 22 federal agencies - including the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Customs Service - will be melded into a single, smoothly functioning department, Johndroe said.

"I want to thank you all for working hard," Bush said Tuesday in an afternoon conference call from Air Force I with Republican Senate leaders. "We're making great progress in the war on terror, and part of that progress will be the ability for us to protect the American people at home."

Bush lobbied hard for the department in recent months. The final text of the 484-page bill, which passed the Republican-led House on Wednesday by a vote of 299-121, largely reflects the White House vision for the agency.

It gives the secretary of the new Cabinet-level department significant flexibility in personnel, permitting him to create policies for hiring, firing and promotion within the workforce. In a blow to organized labor, it allows the president to ban unions in the department if he determines that they hurt homeland security.

"This bill is characterized ... by the end of collective bargaining rights for workers and the end of the right of workers to defend themselves against politically motivated hiring or firing," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in a statement.

The legislation creates a department organized into four main areas of responsibility, each of which will be headed by a powerful undersecretary.

The new department includes only a fraction of the 100-plus federal agencies involved in some way with homeland security, and does not give the new secretary the ability to give orders to the FBI or CIA.

The legislation creating the department does not provide a mechanism for funding. Critics say that it does not sufficiently emphasize the role of "first-responders": the local fire, police, and emergency workers around the country.

"There are many details left out ... We really haven't dealt with the appropriations process, to make sure that first responders have the resources to do their job. We're moving the bill down the field, but it is unfortunate that we have done this in my view in a half hearted way," said Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J.

Drawing fire Tuesday were seven provisions in the bill that Democrats charged were placed at the last minute in the bill by House Republicans catering to special interests. An amendement by Sens. Daschle and Lieberman to remove the provisions failed in the Senate Tuesday morning by a vote of 47-52, with Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Zell Miller, D-Ga., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., voting with Republicans.

As written, the bill extends liability protections to the makers of vaccine additives and retroactively limits the ability of people to sue companies that make them. It allows the new department to contract with American companies that have moved off-shore to avoid paying taxes. And it contains language that Democrats say earmarks a new research center for Texas A & M University.

The liability protection for vaccinations applies to children's vaccinations, is a gift to Eli Lilly and Co. and was not aimed at smallpox shots, Morton Kondracke said Tuesday evening on Fox News Channel.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was the sole Republican to vote to remove the provisions.

"I'm too old to vote for this crap," he told reporters after the amendment failed. "It's special deals for special interests. It sets a very dangerous precedent for next year when the appropriations bills come flooding in."

The bill gives the president one year to create the new department. But even proponents of the bill said that creating a functioning department would likely take years.

"This is just the first step in a long journey," said Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who along with Sen. Phil Graham, R-Texas, sponsored the bill. Both men are retiring, and they said they took special pleasure in the bill's final victory.

"This was not a consensus easy to come by," said Graham. "There were strong feelings about this bill and how it should be done. In the end, it took an election to push it through. Elections have consequences. The American people spoke, and in the end, they wanted this to be done."

Voting against the bill were Sens. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.; Russell Feingold, D-Wis.; Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C.; Carl Levin, D-Mich; Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.; Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; and James Jeffords, I-Vt.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Heated differences between Democrats and Republicans, particularly on collective bargaining for the 170,000 employees who will work in the department, marked the debate. But the final vote drew strong bipartisan support. The vote was 90-9, with former Senate plurality...
Tuesday, 19 November 2002 12:00 AM
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