Bush steps up demand for action on homeland security bill

President Bush Thursday sharpened his call for Congress to send him homeland security legislation, insisting that lawmakers not go home until the bill is finished.

Bush issued the call before a meeting with Hispanic leaders at the White House, calling for Congress to finish the bill before leaving to campaign.

The president's statement appears to equate the homeland security bill with the fiscal 2003 Defense appropriations bill, which Bush also wants to sign before Congress goes home to campaign.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels last month indicated the president might not sign a long-term continuing resolution if a Defense spending bill is not on his desk. Bush today also demanded Congress pass the Defense appropriations bill before it leaves town for the elections.

Legislation to establish a Homeland Security Department has passed the House, but stalled in the Senate over the issue of personnel rules.

"The Senate is still struggling with the bill," Bush said today. "They need to get it done before they go home."

Bush gave no ground to his Senate opponents, but he tipped his hat to their effort to preserve certain rights for agency employees.

"Collective bargaining is important-I support the idea of workers being able to have collective bargaining," Bush said. "But we need to be able to manage the new agency, so that we can best protect the American people. And I call upon the Senate to understand the importance of what I just said."

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