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Ridge agrees to talk about counter-terrorism budget

Tom Ridge:
Tom Ridge: "I'm going to work real hard to see if I can find something that's acceptable."  


From Dana Bash
CNN Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has offered to make an informal public appearance before members of Congress within the next month to talk about President Bush's counter-terrorism budget, a spokesman for Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, said Monday.

But Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin suggested the offer would not be enough to satisfy lawmakers who have sought Ridge to testify before congressional committees about the administration's plans to spend $38 billion on homeland security programs.

The notice from Ridge was hand-delivered Monday to the Capitol office of Byrd, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Gavin.

Ridge has been in a dispute with bipartisan members of Congress for more than a month over Byrd's request that the homeland security director testify about the money the president has sought in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks.

Bush has said that Ridge is simply an adviser to the president and, because he was not confirmed by Congress, he's not obliged to testify to the body. Ridge has refused to testify on those same grounds.

"I don't think you can compromise the principle of separation of powers. I do think that we should continue our discussions to determine whether or not there's a forum that both Congress and the White House can agree is appropriate," he said Sunday on ABC's This Week|. "I'm going to work real hard to see if I can find something that's acceptable."

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, supported Byrd, and has said he might subpoena Ridge to testify.

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the committee's ranking Republican, has also urged Ridge to testify, as have other Republicans.

Last Wednesday, Ridge showed up unannounced in Byrd's office and they talked for about 15 minutes, but reached no resolution.

On March 15, Byrd and Stevens wrote a letter to Bush asking to discuss the issue with the president, but have received no response, Gavin said Monday.

"Senator Byrd remains hopeful the president will respond favorably and directly to our letter," he said.



 
 
 
 







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