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Bush Again Calls For Homeland Security Powers - 2002-08-15

President Bush is calling on the U.S. Congress to move speedily to resolve differences in a bill setting up a new Department of Homeland Security. Speaking at historic Mount Rushmore in South Dakota Thursday, Mr. Bush said the department is necessary to monitor the movements of people in and out of the United States.

"We need to know who's coming in the country, we need to know what they're bringing in the country, and we need to know if they're leaving the country," the president said.

The House and Senate have passed different versions of homeland security legislation. The new department would merge all or part of 22 U.S. federal agencies. But the bill is bogged down in differences over how much discretionary power the president will have over the hiring and firing people in the new department.

Democrats contend that the rights of workers in the new agency would be severely curtailed under the version preferred by Mr. Bush.

But Mr. Bush says he needs flexibility to run the new agency.

"I don't want our hands tied so we cannot do the number one job that you expect of us, which is to protect the homeland," he said.

Mr. Bush also urged Congress to pass a defense spending bill. The president is asking for the biggest peacetime increase in defense spending since the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Bush says the additional funds are needed to fund the war on terrorism.