House passes homeland security bill

The House Wednesday night approved legislation to create a Homeland Security Department.

The bill passed by a vote of 299 to 121.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, who headed the House's select homeland security panel, said the compromise was the result of "very broad negotiations with the White House and the other body." He added the final product "is fundamentally the House passed bill."

Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a member of the homeland security committee, said the labor flexibility language is key for the success of the new department. He highlighted a provision that would allow unions 30 day to negotiate contracts before a second 30-day federal mediation period would kick in, and language that requires the president to give Congress 10 days notice before limiting collective bargaining.

Lawmakers also worked out language that would give the administration the ability to transfer funds to the fledgling department, although that authority is not carried in the homeland bill itself and rather is included in the fiscal 2003 continuing resolution that passed the House Wednesday afternoon.

Administration officials and appropriators agreed to let the administration transfer up to $500 million in 2003 money-or money that is appropriated in the CR-and another $140 million in unobligated money that was previously appropriated. Under the agreement, the transfers are also subject to the approval of the Appropriations Committees.

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