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Key senators take Ridge testimony flap to Bush

Tom Ridge
Tom Ridge  

From John Bisney
CNN Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two senior senators pressing for Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to testify before the Appropriations Committee are taking their demands to the White House.

Committee chairman Robert C. Byrd, D-West Virginia, and top Republican Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Thursday wrote Ridge to say they have asked for a meeting with President Bush to discuss the impasse. Ridge is refusing to appear in a formal committee session, offering instead to brief lawmakers informally though in public.

The White House maintains Ridge, as an "assistant to the president," is not obligated to testify before Congress and insists he is not responsible for explaining the Bush administration's $38 billion homeland security funding request for next year. But in Thursday's letter, Byrd and Stevens call his suggestion for a briefing both "unnecessary and unwise" given the Senate's institutional prerogatives.

"Acceptance of your proposal not to testify in a formal committee hearing...would be a major departure from the Senate's traditions and long-standing practices regarding the expenditure of public monies," the two wrote.

While issuing a subpoena to Ridge has been discussed, the requested meeting with the president could serve to head off such a Constitutional showdown.




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