US politicians back homeland security bill

 

The US House of Representatives has voted to create an enormous Homeland Security Department, the biggest US government reorganisation in decades, granting

President George Bush broad powers he insists are key to confronting an agile, cunning terrorist threat.

The Republican-led House voted 295-132 to pass the Homeland Security bill, setting up a clash with the Democrat-led Senate, where Democrats have written a version that Mr Bush is threatening to veto on grounds it ties his hands on hiring and firing.

"A time of war is the wrong time to weaken the president's ability to protect the American people," Mr Bush said at the White House yesterday.

In a statement after the bill passed, the president said the House "has shown a strong commitment to improving the security of the American people, and I urge the senators to do the same before they leave for the August recess" that begins next Friday.

Closing House debate, Majority Leader Dick Armey said the new Cabinet agency "will focus the resources of this government on our safety and on our security _ on the defeat of villainy".

But many Democrats were dissatisfied, saying the bill could undermine civil service and union protections, shroud too much information in secrecy and threaten air passenger safety.