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Senate approves Homeland bill

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Bush thanks Lott from Air Force One.

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CNN's Skip Loescher reports on the U.S. Senate's 90-9 approval of the Homeland Security bill over Democratic objections (November 20)
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Moderate Republicans helped the Homeland Security bill win Senate approval, but only after GOP leaders agreed to review several of the measure's provisions. CNN's Jonathan Karl reports (November 20)
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CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports creating the new Homeland Security Department will be a huge undertaking (November 19)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Capping months of debate, the Senate on Tuesday approved 90 to 9 a bill that would create a Department of Homeland Security -- a massive reorganization of the federal government sparked by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

President Bush praised the Senate in a statement issued shortly after the vote and said he looked "forward to signing this important legislation."

"This landmark legislation, the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s, will help our nation meet the emerging threats of terrorism in the 21st century," Bush said.

Bush may sign the bill early next week, according to a spokesman for the White House Office of Homeland Security.

The president is expected to announce his choice to lead the new department at that time, or perhaps shortly thereafter. Administration sources have said his pick will be former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who is director of the White House office.

The legislation calls for the Cabinet-level department to be up and running within a year, but some observers predict it will take longer. Others say it will take less time. The department will be dedicated to protecting the United States from terrorist attacks and will employ about 170,000 federal workers from 22 agencies.

The push for a new Cabinet-level department originally came from Democrats and was initially opposed by the administration.

Bush embraced the idea in June and effectively put Democrats on the defensive when some of them did not support his view of how much flexibility he should have in running the department.

The senators who voted against the measure were Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts; Paul Sarbanes, D-Maryland; Jim Jeffords, I-Vermont; Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia; Carl Levin, D-Michigan; Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-South Carolina; and Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin.

Feingold said the new bill came "at the expense of unnecessarily undermining our privacy rights" and "weakening protections against unwarranted government intrusion into the lives of ordinary Americans."

Democratic effort fails

The legislation cleared a pivotal hurdle Tuesday morning when the Senate defeated 52-47 an amendment to strip out of the legislation what Democrats called seven "special-interest" provisions.

The controversial provisions, which include liability protections for pharmaceutical manufacturers and companies that develop anti-terrorism technologies, had been inserted into the legislation by House Republicans and approved by the House last week.

LEGISLATION HIGHLIGHTS
Creates a Cabinet-level department out of all or parts of 22 agencies -- including Customs, INS and the Transportation Security Administration -- with about 170,000 workers and a $37 billion budget.

Grants the president flexibility to hire and fire workers, but gives unions a chance to challenge new rules.

Approves a plan to allow pilots to carry guns in cockpits.

Republicans won the Senate vote on those provisions only after assuring some moderates they would work to eliminate three of them next year.

"We will work with senators on both sides of the aisle and the House to make some corrections and clarification," Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, told reporters. (Full story)

Senate Democrats were angry with the provisions, describing them as giveaways to corporate interests.

"This is an atrocious demonstration of demeaning the legislative process," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said before the vote. "They ought to be ashamed of themselves."

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, sided with Democrats on the vote to strip the seven provisions from the bill.

But most moderates, including Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana -- who is in a runoff race for her seat -- opposed the effort, and Sen. Dean Barkley, an independent from Minnesota, voted with Republicans.

Republicans defended the provisions as legitimate. For example, they said new liability protections were needed to encourage companies to develop new anti-terrorism technologies.

McCain doubted that Republicans would reverse any of the provisions next year, despite the agreement with the moderates. "The fix is in," McCain told reporters.

CNN Correspondents Jonathan Karl and Jeanne Meserve and producers Dana Bash, Ted Barrett and Sean Loughlin contributed to this story.



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