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Bush Wins Concession Over Homeland Security

Senate: The president succeeds in blocking creation of an office of counter-terrorism in the department. He had threatened a veto.

September 13, 2002|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The president won an opening showdown Thursday in the Senate concerning his proposed Department of Homeland Security.

On a 55-41 vote, the chamber backed President Bush's rejection of a provision that would create a separate White House office on counter-terrorism headed by a director who would be confirmed by the Senate.

Bush had threatened to veto Senate legislation to establish the department unless that provision was dropped, complaining that it would amount to unwarranted congressional interference in presidential powers.

"Today was a test vote, and we passed it with flying colors," a senior Republican aide said after the Senate action.

"We feel we are in a strong position to get a bill out of here that the president will sign."

Among the six Democrats who backed Bush on Thursday concerning presidential prerogatives was former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, now a senator from New York.

But Clinton plans to oppose Bush on another key battle: proposed amendments that would give him the broad powers he has demanded to hire, fire and transfer workers in the new department. The president contends he needs such authority to build an efficient operation.

Clinton agrees with fellow Democrats and organized labor that such "management flexibility" would be an unjustified attack on civil service and collective bargaining protections.

Independent Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont also sided with the president in the preliminary vote.

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