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Bush Wants Congress to Create Homeland Security Department This Year - 2002-11-08

President Bush wants Congress to create a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security before the end of the year. The president says it is time to push ahead with that legislation, now that his party has won control of both houses of Congress.

The first thing President Bush wants from this week's Republican electoral wins is a new cabinet-level department of Homeland Security to better coordinate border patrols, emergency response teams, and research into surviving chemical or biological attack.

The legislation passed the Republican-controlled House, but was blocked by Senate Democrats, who refused to give the president authority to over-ride civil service work rules in times of national emergency.

It now falls to soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to try and get that bill through next week's "lame-duck" session of Congress, which includes legislators who lost re-election.

President Bush had lunch Friday with Mr. Lott and House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert to push for Homeland Security. Mr. Hastert said, now that congressional elections are over, the country cannot afford to wait any longer to reorganize homeland defense. "The political games are over," Dennis Hastert. "We need to get done what's right for the American people, and pass this piece of legislation. So, we hope we can reach-out to our friends on the other side of the aisle, that we can get some cooperation."

Senator Lott says, if the legislation is not completed now, before this session of Congress adjourns, it would be several months before it could be acted on by a new Republican-led Congress next year. "We have to do what the American people deserve to have done," said senator Lott. "Homeland Security is important. If we leave town not having achieved that, it would be four or five months then before that could be done. We need to have better efficiency and more flexibility, and we need to get this process underway. We are talking about security for the American people here at home."

A new Department of Homeland Security would be the biggest government re-organization in more than 50 years, with 170,000 employees from the Secret Service to the Coast Guard working to prevent another terrorist attack.