GOP, Democrats urge action on Homeland Security
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the first year anniversary of the September 11 attacks looms, President Bush and a Democratic senator urged Congress on Saturday to make the nation less vulnerable to terrorists by moving swiftly toward setting up a Department of Homeland Security.
While Bush -- in his weekly radio address -- praised the bill passed by the House of Representatives, he criticized the Senate legislation, saying it lacks enough flexibility and authority for the proposed agency.
The new department would oversee functions now dispersed among more than two dozen agencies, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service and the Border Patrol.
Speaking for the Democrats, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut -- who introduced the Senate measure -- said lawmakers shouldn't get distracted by differences in the bills.
"Those are side issues that ought to be put off for another day and not be allowed to deter us from completing our urgent mission: protecting the American people from terrorism at home," said Lieberman, chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee.
The new department would consolidate more than two dozen agencies under a newly appointed secretary.
"Our proposal and the president's share the same mission, the same basic structure and the same sharp focus on results," the senator said.
Bush stressed that the new department must be able to move people and resources quickly to respond to threats, without the burden of too many regulations.
He said the Senate bill wouldn't allow the department secretary to transfer limited funds among government accounts in response to terrorist threats, without a time-consuming approval process.
The Senate measure, Bush said, also weakens the president's ability to prohibit collective bargaining when national security demands it.
"Senators need to understand I will not accept a homeland security bill that puts special interests in Washington ahead of the security of the American people. I will not accept a homeland security bill that ties the hands of this administration or future administrations in defending our nation against terrorist attacks," the president said.
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