Hillary Seeks Audience With President

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton trolled for an invitation Thursday to hot, dusty Crawford, Texas, to spend some time with the Republican who replaced her husband in the White House.

Clinton said she wants to lobby the vacationing President Bush on World Trade Center aid. The New York Democrat wants to bring along firefighters, ironworkers and others from ground zero to help make the case for additional funds for a health tracking system and better radios for emergency workers.

"If I get invited, I'll be there," Clinton told reporters Thursday. "I feel so strongly about this that I would be more than willing to travel to Crawford, Texas to make my case to the President in person."

Referring to Bush's propensity for using time in Texas to clear brush on his 1,600 acres, the former first lady volunteered to "put on a pair of work gloves."

"I am sure the guys I bring with me will be happy to help out," she added.

The White House did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The president has 24 more days to decide whether to grant an emergency designation to spend $5 billion on homeland security, among other things. He already signed a $28.9 billion supplemental spending bill last month.

The Republican administration has made clear it wants to keep a lid on spending. White House officials have also complained that the $5 billion "emergency" bill allows no flexibility, forcing the president to spend all the money or none at all.

Included in that bill is $90 million for a health tracking proposal for trade center workers, some of whom have complained of respiratory problems and other ailments after spending time at the site. A pet project of Clinton's, the tracking proposal would provide long-term screening and clinical exams for workers at the site. It earmarks $25 million for New York firefighters, who spent weeks searching the rubble for the remains of their 343 fallen colleagues.

The White House says it is already funding a similar program at $32 million. Clinton argues her initiative is more comprehensive.

There is also another $100 million in the emergency spending bill to improve the communications systems of firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel nationwide. Radio problems hindered rescue workers' response to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. The various agencies' radios could not communicate with each other.

In a letter to Bush, Clinton said if those radio systems had been able to talk to each other, "lives might have been saved on September 11."