WASHINGTON – After a hurry-up drafting job over the weekend, President Bush was ready Monday to send Congress the legislative blueprint for creating his proposed domestic security agency.
Bush's homeland security adviser, Tom Ridge, was presenting the bill Tuesday morning at a ceremony in the Capitol, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Monday. Along with Hastert, the other Republican and Democratic leaders of the two chambers were scheduled to receive the White House measure.
About a quarter-inch thick, the legislation was completed in a rush over the weekend by White House aides eager to meet a stepped-up timetable for creating the Department of Homeland Security, a senior Bush adviser said.
Instead of Bush's usual practice of providing only outlines of his principles when he wants something from Congress, the White House determined this proposal was so big and complex that many details needed to be fleshed out before it was delivered to lawmakers, the adviser said.
The legislation contains no surprises from Bush's announcement, the adviser said.
With so many details outlining how 100 federal entities and almost 170,000 employees should be gathered into a single Cabinet-level agency with a $37.4 billion budget, however, it was sure to be fodder for critics and others hungry for information.
Skeptics have questioned the new agency's lack of authority over intelligence gathering.
Among the entities the new agency would absorb are the Secret Service, the Coast Guard and the embattled immigration and customs services — but neither the FBI nor the CIA. The White House says the reshuffle would be the biggest overhaul in a half-century, which will nonetheless not cost significantly more that announced.
The White House promised it would have draft legislation to Congress within two weeks of Bush's June 6 announcement.
Since then, the president and congressional leaders concurred that the bill should be completed by Sept. 11, the first anniversary of the terror attacks. To achieve that goal, congressional leaders have said they hoped to have initial versions passed before lawmakers leave for their August recess.
Action had begun on Capitol Hill even before the president's proposal arrived.
On Monday, former leaders of the Customs Service, the Coast Guard and other agencies that probably will be affected told a House Government Reform subcommittee those agencies should be kept intact even if they were moved.
On Thursday, Ridge was to testify before House and Senate committees.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which will handle the legislation, has a homeland security bill similar to Bush's but differing sharply on the sharing and analysis of intelligence.