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US Senate Approves Homeland Security Bill


The U.S. Senate, following the House of Representatives' lead, has approved a broad homeland security bill by a 60 to 38 vote. But President Bush says he will veto the legislature unless one particular provision is stripped from the measure. VOA's Deborah Tate explains from Capitol Hill.

The legislation aims to implement the remainder of the recommendations put forward by the bipartisan commission that probed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The bill includes measures to improve rail, aviation and cargo security, as well as funds for state and local emergency communications systems. It also seeks to improve intelligence sharing among federal, state and local officials.

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who calls himself an independent Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He appealed for bipartisan support of the bill ahead of the vote:

"America is safer than it was on 9/11 01, but not yet safe enough," said Joe Lieberman. " This bill, which I believe is non-controversial and ought to receive nonpartisan support, will make the people of America, in an age of terrorism, safer yet."

But the legislation includes a measure vehemently opposed by the Bush administration that would give federal baggage screeners at airports collective bargaining rights.

Majority Democrats argue that screeners have been denied such rights since joining the federal payroll after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Republican opponents of the provision say the Homeland Security Department needs flexibility in setting screeners' schedules and procedures.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, voted against the overall bill because of the collective bargaining amendment.

"It does have a fatal defect," said Mitch McConnell. "It has turned into, unfortunately, a reward to big labor by including a collective bargaining provision."

The Democratic-led House of Representatives has passed its own version of the homeland security legislation, with a similar provision extending collective bargaining rights to airport baggage screeners. The Senate and House bills must be reconciled before a final bill is sent to President Bush for his signature.

The president has vowed to veto the legislation if the collective bargaining measure is not removed.

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