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Congress Welcomes Bush Homeland Security Office Plan

U.S. lawmakers are welcoming President Bush's proposal to reorganize homeland security.

Congress has long pressed the Bush administration to elevate the office of Homeland Security to cabinet level - a move that would give lawmakers oversight authority over the agency.

Lawmakers' initial reaction is positive.

Democratic House leader, Richard Gephardt, said the proposal is 'precisely what should be done.'

Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle said in a written statement 'it is encouraging President Bush recognizes the need for a fundamental overhaul of the way in which we approach America's homeland security.'

Another Democratic Senator, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who has offered bipartisan legislation to establish a cabinet-level homeland security office, agrees.

"The good news is that this broad bipartisan group of us in Congress and the White House are on the same side as we strengthen our guard to protect the American people at home against the threat of terrorism," he said.

Republican lawmakers are also pleased. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania says Mr. Bush's plan is 'very, very good news.'

But some lawmakers caution the proposal could trigger bitter turf battles among entrenched federal bureaucracies.

At a Judiciary Committee hearing on reforming the FBI, bureau Director Robert Mueller refused to comment on the plan to reorganize homeland security to the anger of Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, who pressed the issue.

Biden: "Were you consulted on the details of this new office? Will the FBI gain or lose jurisdiction as a result of this new office?" Mueller: "I respectfully do not believe it appropriate for me to disclose discussions I might have had had with the president," he said.

Biden: "I think that is malarky. That is not legitimate." President Bush's plan will require congressional approval.