The Senate has voted unanimously (94-0) to confirm Tom Ridge as Secretary of the new Homeland Security Department.

Confirmation of the former Pennsylvania governor clears the way for him to be sworn in as secretary in time for the opening of the new cabinet-level department later this week.

"I cannot think of a better person to have at the helm of this new department when it opens its doors this Friday than Governor Ridge," said Republican Senator Susan Collins, head of the committee that gave preliminary approval to the nomination before sending it to the full Senate

Mr. Ridge, a former member of the House of Representatives, has been serving as Director of the White House Office of Homeland Security for the past 15 months.

While joining their Republican counterparts in praising Mr. Ridge, some Democrats also urged him to assure that civil rights would be protected in the U.S. war on terrorism. "It is essential that Governor Ridge understand that he will be responsible, not only for defending the homeland, but also for defending against the abuse of power inside the new department," said Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Other Democrats urged the administration to adequately fund the new homeland security agency. They said local law enforcement officials are not adequately prepared to deal with another terrorist attack like those on September 11, 2001. They also said more needs to be done to bolster port and border security.

The creation of the new department will require the largest government reorganization in a half-century, bringing together all or parts of nearly two dozen federal agencies to better coordinate anti-terrorism efforts.