House works on Homeland Security Bill
As the Bush administration pushes for the creation and finalization of a Homeland Security Department, the House continues to work out the intricacies of the plan.
Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill asked a special House committee not to let resistance to change block creation of the Homeland Defense Department that President Bush wants.
Yet disputes over who should control agencies such as the Coast Guard and the Immigration and Naturalization Service surfaced as the House tried to complete its plan for the new department, according to an Associated Press story.
A dozen House committees scrambled to meet a deadline at midnight Friday for accepting or amending parts of the security agency bill under their jurisdictions. They have recommended several changes to President Bush’s plan presented last month to combine about 100 agencies with security functions under “one federal roof,” according to AP.
The Bush administration said that it hopes the Homeland Security Department would be off the ground by Jan. 1, 2003.
The House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R–Texas) must deal with the suggested revisions to the president’s plan first, though. His panel plans to write its bill by the end of next week, sending it to the House floor the week of July 21.
The Senate must also pass its version of the legislation, and it intends to act this month. However the Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D–W. Va.) has objected to that fast pace, AP’s story stated.
In fact, some House members from both parties said that Bush’s plan had gone too far and moved too fast. The House Transportation Committee, responsible for 54 percent of the employees and 50 percent of the estimated $37 billion budget of the new department, went against the plan Thursday when it decided to let the Transportation Department keep the Coast Guard and to let the Federal Emergency Management Agency remain independent. The main functions of those agencies—such as search-and-rescue and drug interdiction (Coast Guard) and relief for natural disasters (FEMA)—would get secondary treatment in a department devoted to fighting terrorism, according to arguments presented.