President Bush says Senate Democrats are holding up plans for a new Department of Homeland Security. The president wants that agency up and running by the end of the year.
President Bush says terrorists still threaten the country, and he used his weekly radio address to push for one of the ways he wants to fight that threat a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security.
The agency would coordinate efforts from border patrols and the Coast Guard to new research into defending against chemical or biological attack.
But the president is having difficulty getting that legislation through Congress because some Senate Democrats do not want him to be able to override existing civil service requirements on labor negotiations and hiring practices.
President Bush says those restrictions would hurt his ability to respond effectively to terrorist threats. "The legislation the Senate is debating is deeply flawed," he said. "The Senate bill would force the new department to fight against terror threats with one hand tied behind its back. The department of homeland security must be able to move people and resources quickly, to respond to threats immediately, without being forced to comply with a thick book of bureaucratic rules."
The president asked Americans to call their senators and tell them to put national interests ahead of partisan interests by backing an alternative drafted by Georgia Democrat Zell Miller and Texas Republican Phil Gramm.
President Bush says that bipartisan alternative would give the new secretary of Homeland Security much of the flexibility needed to move people and resources to meet new threats. Mr. Bush says it also protects all of the 170,000 employees of the new department against illegal discrimination.
If approved, the Department of Homeland Security would be the biggest government reorganization in more than 50 years.