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Ridge to make case for Cabinet-level agency

Tom Ridge  

By Suzanne Malveaux
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is scheduled to go to Capitol Hill Tuesday to present congressional leaders with the Bush administration's proposal to make his office a Cabinet-level department.

The presentation will occur during a ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m. in the Rayburn Room on Capitol Hill. He will hand off the Bush administration's proposed legislation to the leadership of the House and Senate.

The presentation before the bipartisan group is meant to underscore the urgent need for its passage and the support it has received from both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

Congress ready to move on homeland security 

House and Senate leaders hope to speed the bill's passage by September 11, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

A panel has been created to shepherd the initiative through Congress this summer. It is a tight timetable for action, considering Congress is expected to be in recess for a week in early July, and for much of August.

Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor named by Bush last fall to head the new Office of Homeland Security, will make the administration's case for the bill's passage. In a reversal from the White House's initial position, he will testify before Congress if asked.

The proposal calls for dozens of government agencies to be brought under the umbrella of a single department committed to ensuring domestic security. The proposed department would have nearly 170,000 employees, and an initial budget of $37.4 billion.

Legislators are expected to address issues of cost, jurisdiction, bureaucracy, and union representation of employees, among other things, before voting on it.




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