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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush Pushes Schedule on Homeland Security Restructuring

Aired June 11, 2002 - 10:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we need to look at some videotape from President Bush as he was meeting just earlier with congressional leaders. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll let the leaders speak for themselves later on, but what I've heard is there's a commitment to get this done in a way that takes any partisanship out of the issue and, at the same time, strives for a date certain.

Congressman Gephardt suggested that we can get this done -- or should try to get this done by September the 11th. The speaker spoke out about the need to work toward getting it done as soon as possible, as did Senator Daschle and Senator Lott.

My message here is we want to work as closely as we can with the Congress to achieve this significant change and to leave behind a legacy for future presidents and future Congresses, the legacy of a department that will work in close coordination to secure the homeland.

We're in for a long struggle in this war on terror, and there are people that still want to harm America. And we have an obligation to our citizens to work together to do everything we can to protect the people.

That commitment is shared by Republican and Democrat alike, and I'm thankful for the leadership that the members here have shown. And I'm thankful for the good ideas that have been shared with our administration, as we developed our vision of the Department of Homeland Security.

I'll answer a couple of questions, and then we've got to get going.

Yes?

QUESTION: In the reporting on yesterday's belatedly announced arrest of Jose Padilla, it has come out that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had 107 radiation sources missing or stolen just since March 31st. Do you have any reason to believe that those samples or sources are not in Al Qaeda or terrorist hands?

BUSH: We will run down every lead, every hint.

This guy, Padilla, is a bad guy. And he is where he needs to be -- detained.

QUESTION: Mr. President, given the conspiratorial nature necessary to make a dirty bomb or any such device, can we anticipate from you an announcement related to this case -- any additional arrests, any additional people in custody or in (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: As we run down these, you know, killers or would-be killers, we'll let you know. And this guy, Padilla, is one of many who we have arrested. As I said in the speech to West Point, the coalition we put together has hauled in over 2,400 people, and you can call it 2,401 now. And there's just a full-scale manhunt on. And Padilla is where he needs to be.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you feel like the American people have grown complacent at all about the threat we face? And do you feel like the apprehension of Padilla is something of a wake-up call, and should it be?

BUSH: First of all, the American people are not complacent. They're patient, tough, determined, and they recognize we're fighting the first battle of the new wars of the 21st century.

Members of Congress are certainly not complacent. They reflect their states or their constituencies, and they know we've got a battle on our hands.

I'm real proud of the American people -- proud of how the American people have responded. I'm proud of how strong the American people are, and I appreciate the compassion of the American people, too.

Last question.

QUESTION: New subject. Is the threat of war between India and Pakistan over, do you think? And what's the next step?

BUSH: Well, we've made progress in diffusing a very tense situation.

And I want to thank all the countries which have been sending representatives to India and Pakistan to try to persuade both leaders that war would be a disaster.

And so, the situation is getting better. But so long as there's troops amassed and people are still hostile toward each other, there's always a threat that something could happen.

But I'm pleased with the progress we've made, and we'll continue to work the issue.

STAFF: Thank you all very much.

KAGAN: We've been listening to President Bush. These were taped comments he made just a few minutes ago from the White House after he met with Congressional leaders. A meeting, very important in light of President Bush's proposal that he made last week to restructure a huge portion of the federal government and develop a new Department of Homeland Security.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent John King and talk about the significance of the president having to work with Congress -- John, when this announcement was made, heralded by many, but there were critics who pointed out, yes, good luck getting this one through Congress and all the committees that would have a little say in how this plays out.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A commitment in the Congress to pass this legislation, or something similar to it. A clear commitment from both parties to create a new Department of Homeland Security.

But there is a debate over just what that department will look like. Will it encompass as many agencies, now in other parts of the federal government, that President Bush wants? That's why he has some key members of Congress at the table, key Democrats as well. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the senior Democrat in the Senate, a very experienced legislator. His views are critical as we go forward.

Harry Reed, the number two Democrat at the Senate, also at this meeting, a Democrat of the state of Nevada. President Bush trying to get this department created as soon as possible. He wants it up and running January 1st. Some say that is overly ambitious, given the fact that you are shifting 170,000 employees under the president's plans, when some are trying to create deadline to get the department created as quickly as possible. Some of the Congress, even Democrats, suggesting that perhaps September 11 should be the target date, that Congress should try to pass the legislation creating the new department by the one-year anniversary of the attacks. Many believe that is too ambitious a timetable. But President Bush and the White House certainly would be heartened to get that kind of pace in the Congress.

Key members of Congress say before they consider the legislation, though, the president has to actually send it up. He has made the proposal. Bit White House officials say it will be another two weeks before they have the actual legislation sent up to Congress.

KAGAN: John King at the White House. John, thanks very much.

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