Bush Sells Homeland Security Plan

As five House committees voted on parts of Bush's plan for a new Department of Homeland Security, the president pushed his proposal to some of the nearly 170,000 employees who would be moved to the new office, telling them they will be part of history.

"Twenty years from now, if we're still standing -- individually, that is -- you can look back and say, 'I was part of not only winning the war on terror, but I was part of working together to leave behind a legacy, a legacy of a more secure homeland,'" Bush said.

"This is a historic moment, a fantastic opportunity. History has called us into action; history has put the spotlight on America," he said.

Twenty-two agencies and 100 offices will be affected by the reorganization plan, as well as Cabinet members like Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose State Department will continue to authorize visas but will get help from the security agency in training consular officers in the field and reviewing individual visa petitions that raise security questions.

In his remarks, the president called on federal workers to abandon turf wars in the interests of winning the terror war.

"We're at war. We're in a different kind of war than we're used to. There will be moments where it seems like we're not at war, but we're at war until we win. And therefore, we must do everything we can to funnel resources and to set priorities to protect the American people," he said.  

But not everybody is enthusiastic about the $38 billion Cabinet agency. Representatives of the Secret Service, Coast Guard and Customs Service told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that breaking up the agencies will damage their ability to coordinate other activities like trade and other types of law enforcement.

"Mixing safety and security is not like mixing oil and water," said Adm. Thomas Collins, who added that the cutters, boats, aircraft and people who do security are also responsible for marine search-and-rescue and fisheries management. 

The fear by some members of Congress is that other activities will take a back seat to security.

"Some fear that the Coast Guard may be put in a position of compromising other duties," Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., told the panel. 

Judiciary as well as four other House committees are putting the finishing touches on elements of their homeland security proposals in preparation for a floor vote next week. Five other committees are expected to complete their work on Thursday.

Each element of the committees' work must first be sent through a special committee chaired by House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, who said that the special panel may or may not adhere to the changes the other committees approved.

"We do not feel bound by the chapter-and-verse details of the president's proposal or of any of the committees," Armey said. "We think the committees' expertise is going to make the president's proposal an even better proposal."

On the Senate side, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle informed Bush that a bill will be ready for a vote before the August recess, according to Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., who shared breakfast at the White House with Daschle and Bush.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who chairs the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said he expects the Senate measure to reflect much of Bush's plan.

"There are some disagreements, but I don't feel they are deep and divisive," Lieberman said.

Bush was to meet at the White House Wednesday with a number of former Coast Guard commandants who support the reassignment of that agency into the proposed department.

"Despite everybody's best intentions and hard work and sacrifices there is a dispersal of authority, a lack of accountability, and the truth of the matter is, a needless drain on critical resources," Bush said.

Fox News' James Rosen and the Associated Press contributed to this report.