Homeland security chief turns down offer to testify before Senate panel

A spokeswoman for White House Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said Monday that Ridge had turned down a request from Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and ranking member Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to testify on funding for homeland defense programs.

A Byrd spokesman said Byrd and Stevens "are hoping that Mr. Ridge will reconsider; as the administration point man on homeland security, his insights are crucial to the committee and to Congress."

Ridge coordinates the government's anti-terrorism effort at home, although dozens of other agencies carry out the programs. Byrd and Stevens had requested Ridge's appearance because, they wrote, "Your views and insights on the policies necessary to meet these objectives are critical to the committee and the nation."

Ridge's spokeswoman said he would not testify because he is an adviser to the president, not a Senate-confirmed head of an agency that implements policy.

"Assistants to the president work for the president," Neely said. "And the president has spoken his recommendations to the Senate and House" in the fiscal 2003 budget he sent Congress last month, she said.

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