Unions pleased with civil service protections in Lieberman bill

Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Friday unveiled his proposal for the new Homeland Security Department, including language to ensure civil service protections for employees of the new department.

Representatives of federal employees' unions said they are satisfied with the labor provisions included in the proposal.

"His language will protect civil service rights and grandfather collective bargaining agreements for employees who are transferred into the new department," said one union source, who added, "Lieberman was thinking through the implications [of a new department] long before the president even made his proposal."

The House Homeland Security Committee voted Friday to implement much less far-reaching labor protections in its version of legislation to create a Homeland Security Department.

Lieberman's bill, to be marked up next Wednesday, abolishes the Immigration and Naturalization Service and includes "beefed up" language on the scientific functions of the proposed department.

The proposal shifts the Customs Service, Coast Guard and Transportation Safety Administration into the new department, along with the portion of the Animal and Plant Inspection service that deals with quarantine inspections at points of entry. It would also create a National Office for Combating Terrorism within the White House and require Senate confirmation for its director. The legislation also includes extensive immigration reforms.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Christopher (Kit) Bond, R-Mo., urged Lieberman to reconsider proposals they term "counterproductive" to change some of the functions of the National Guard.

In a Thursday letter to Lieberman and Governmental Affairs ranking member Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., Leahy and Bond expressed concerns about a section granting the Guard a "lead role" in domestic defense, "thereby pre-empting ongoing defense authorization committee work and agency deliberations."

The letter from the co-chairmen of the National Guard Caucus stated that giving the Guard such responsibility for preventing and responding to threats "would severely detract from the Guard's ability to sustain its longstanding mission to serve as the nation's primary military service."

Leahy and Bond said a provision to turn the Guard into more of a "domestically oriented, federally controlled constabulary force" is "troubling," and would "violate longstanding conventions against inordinate involvement of the military in civilian affairs."

Leahy, who has taken a long interest in civil liberties issues, and Bond, a former governor, also expressed concerns about granting a new Homeland Security secretary the authority to recommend structuring of the Guard.

The authors suggest instead that the legislation-which Majority Leader Daschle hopes to bring to the floor before the August recess-should contain a provision requiring the Homeland Security Department to coordinate with the Defense Department and governors about how to integrate the military, including the Guard, into efforts to prevent terrorism.