Homeland Security Department approved without money for first-responders
The Senate voted Tuesday to approve the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, reorganizing scattered federal agencies in an attempt at a focused response to terrorism. But representatives went home without funding programs promised to first-responders in 2003.
Ending months of debate over the new department, the Senate approved the bill on a 90-to-9 vote despite qualms many Democrats held about President Bush’s design for the agency and special-interest business provisions. Only after urgent phone calls from the president and last-minute promises by Republican leaders to eliminate favoritism for some businesses and home districts did moderates from both parties agree to the final vote.
The House approved the bill last week. After House leaders resolve a few differences between the bills Friday, the bill should be bound for the president’s desk before month’s end. But it will be years before the new department, considered Washington’s largest reorganization in 50 years, has fully assumed all its functions.
The Senate also approved a resolution Tuesday to keep the government running at current spending levels until Jan. 11, matching a similar measure approved in the House after members failed to pass regular spending bills.
Neither bill provides the money and direction promised in the first months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to first responders — police and fire departments, health officials, national guard units and so on. The president’s First Responder Initiative promised state and local governments grants for planning, training, equipment and exercises for first responders in 2003. Congress has yet to enact legislation to create such a program.