Process of Creating a Cabinet Seat Gets Under Way

While support is generally widespread for the president's plan to create a Cabinet department for homeland security, even supporters know there will be bitter turf wars.

"Already, you are beginning to hear some people say, now wait a minute, that particular program shouldn't that stay over here under my jurisdiction or couldn't we maybe find a different way?" said Sen. Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

Case in point: Rep. David Obey, D-Mich., the top House Democrat on a key committee that will review the changes, called it "a haphazard plan that would load the new department down with a huge bureaucracy and responsibilities that have nothing to do with preventing terrorism."

Obey, however, clarified that he is not opposed to the plan, but "has stressed that this proposal in particular has some major problems, and it needs a lot of work," Press Secretary Dave Sirota said in an e-mail to Fox News.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, called it a "devastating blow to civil liberties and civil rights" that was "crafted behind closed doors" by a "select few Republicans."

The proposal places "our nation's entire immigration apparatus in an agency whose mission is security" and "does nothing to reform or reorganize the two most critical elements of our security apparatus – the FBI and the CIA," Conyers said in a statement.

The new Department of Homeland Security, which requires congressional approval, would incorporate more than 100 different agencies and 170,000 federal workers under one umbrella. Included in the shift are the Secret Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the newly created Transportation Security Administration, among others.

In principle, most Democrats support the new department.

"There will be a lot of arguments on why we ought not to do this, but I think we've got to try to preserve the feelings of anger and purpose that we had in the days immediately after Sept. 11 today to act together decisively," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who met with the president at the White House Friday to discuss the details.

Still, decisive action right away means Congress won't have time this year to pass numerous other bills. Lott said to implement the plan, which Bush wants completed by next year, "everything but economic security, defense and homeland security" drops off the agenda.

It also creates a turf battle over who is in charge of shepherding the bill through Congress. Rep. Dan Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, was quick to claim jurisdictional ownership of the president's plan

"As chairman of the committee responsible for government reorganization, I look forward to working with the president and the administration," Burton declared Friday.

But Republican Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware has already written leaders claiming that new committees should be set up to create the legislation to develop the new Cabinet position.

"Both the House and Senate should create new standing Committees on Homeland Security, as well as Appropriations Subcommittees on Homeland Security to fund that Department," he wrote to House and Senate leaders.

The president's plan is sure to become a huge election year debate, and could crowd out Democratic issues like Social Security, which Democrats thought they were making strides on. Republicans love that because campaigning for a new homeland department allows them to emphasize the war on terror, which polls show favor them politically.

Lott said the president announced the plan after realizing that criticism of the current structure of the Office of Homeland Defense and legislation to create a department were already gaining steam in Congress.

"It was a peremptory move. I think he trumped those who were going to continue to harp on the need for this when he realized, you know, we've got to do this," Lott said.

Lawmakers say they can get this done by the end of the year, but how is still up in the air.