The Police State is officialy here


Homeland Security triumphs Senate clears way for giant new agency

By Alan Fram

Associated Press

Nov. 20, 2002

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted decisively Tuesday to create a Homeland Security Department, delivering a triumph to President Bush and setting the stage for the biggest government reshuffling in a half-century as a way to thwart and respond to terrorist attacks.

The final vote was 90-9, belying bitter clashes that pitted Congress against the White House and the two parties against each other and that prolonged work on the legislation for nearly a year. Eight Democrats and Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, an Independent, voted no.

The new Cabinet-level department will merge 22 agencies with combined budgets of about $40 billion and employ 170,000 workers in the most grandiose federal reorganization since the Defense Department's birth in 1947.

Even so, it will take months for the new agency to get fully off the ground. And a budget stalemate continues to block most of the extra money for domestic security enhancements both sides want for the federal fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The House overwhelmingly approved the bill on Nov. 13, so the Senate vote was the crucial, final test. Because of technical changes the Senate made, however, the House is expected to provide final congressional approval Friday with an anticlimactic voice vote.

Bush called it a "landmark" bill in a phone call to Senate Republicans as he flew to Prague, Czech Republic, for a NATO meeting.

"Congress has taken an historic and bold step forward to protect the American people," Bush said in a statement after the vote.

Senators cleared the way for the final vote by rejecting, 52-47, a Democratic bid to block provisions that will aid vaccine producers and other industries. That vote came after Republican leaders made last-minute concessions that ensured support from four moderate senators.

"This bill still needs work," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., voicing the misgivings of Democrats who opposed the pro-industry provisions. But he said he supported the bill because of "the tremendous challenge facing the country" to combat terror.

Completion of the homeland security bill ends a topsy-turvy odyssey for legislation that started inching through Congress nearly a year ago against Bush's will, only to see him offer his own version after momentum became unstoppable.

Democrats resisted Bush's bill because it restricted labor rights of the new agency's workers.

But many reversed course after their Election Day loss of Senate control was attributed partly to the homeland security fight.

"This is a substantial accomplishment, a historic day in the age of insecurity we've entered," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., one of many authors of homeland security legislation.

The road to passing the homeland security bill was cleared only as the clock ticked down during the Democratic amendment vote.

Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., phoned House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., in Turkey and won his pledge that next year Congress would reconsider the three provisions the moderates opposed, senators said.

The agreement secured support by Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both R-Maine, Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

Remaining in the bill are legal protections for airport security firms and companies that make airport screening devices, exemptions for some homeland security meetings from open-meeting laws; and provisions making it harder to issue new federal transportation security requirements.

"That is not good government," Daschle said. "That is shabby government."

Lott said passage of the Democratic amendment would have meant prolonged House-Senate talks on the bill's final details.

"The terrorists are not going to wait for a process that goes on days, weeks or months," he said. "We need to get this done, and we need to do it now."

Democratic defectors on their party's amendment were Sens. Zell Miller of Georgia and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who faces a tight runoff election on Dec. 7.

Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, who co-sponsored the president's plan said that the bill marks "a victory for America's law enforcement professionals, our national security and the safety of the American people."

"We're going to run this department better than we run the rest of the government," he said.

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