ARGONNE, Ill — With Congress headed into summer recess, President Bush called on lawmakers Monday to make the Homeland Security Department a reality as he showcased new anti-terrorism technology at a national research lab.
“This Department of Homeland Security is not a good Republican idea, it’s not a good Democratic idea, it’s simply an American idea, and they need to get their work done,” Bush told hundreds of workers at the lab.
The House leaves Friday on its summer break, the Senate a week later.
“If they don’t get it done, Congress is setting itself up for a great traffic jam” leading into the weeks before adjournment this fall, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, referring to the trade, corporate responsibility and homeland security measures left unfinished.
As part of his effort to bolster security, Bush has called on Congress to thoroughly review the 19th century law that bans the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps from participating in arrests, searches, seizure of evidence and other police-type activity on U.S. soil.
Some lawmakers have expressed concern about rushing decisions on far-reaching changes in the bureaucracy that Bush envisions. House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “It’s time to move forward with this. The president’s got a good plan.”
In the Senate, a version of the measure by Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., tracks closely with Bush’s plan. It also would augment the department’s ability to gather and analyze intelligence from the FBI, CIA and others. Lieberman’s panel is to take up the bill Wednesday.
Bush told reporters that “I believe there’s a good chance” he will get the legislation by Sept. 11.
In his sixth visit to politically vital Illinois, a state he lost in 2000, Bush toured the lab on Monday and viewing new technologies aimed at thwarting terrorism.
“That’s why I’m here: to look in the eyes of those who possess the genius and creativity of the American people,” Bush said. “Our scientific community is serving on the front lines of this war by developing new technologies that will make America safer, and as you tackle new kinds of challenges, I want you to know, our government will stand by your side to make the job easier.”
Among the technology Bush saw: A computer simulation of how disasters could affect infrastructure such as transportation and energy conduits; DNA analysis of biological agents; and a portable system of sensors for detecting their release.
Argonne, an Energy Department lab, is not slated to be absorbed into the Homeland Security Department, but the department would likely channel research dollars to the facility, said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for domestic security chief Tom Ridge.