House Passes Bill To Create Department of Homeland Security
The House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would merge 22 federal entities into a new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, the Washington Post reports. The measure (HR 5005) passed 295-132, with 120 Democrats voting against it. According to the Post, the bill contains "nearly everything" President Bush had outlined in his plan for the new department (Miller/Eilperin, Washington Post, 7/27). Bush has said that a "major component" of his administration's plan would be to make the CDC a vital part of the new Department, where it would develop new vaccines and antidotes against bioterrorist threats. Also under the plan, the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service would be "expanded and modernized," allowing it to train local and state officials to better recognize a biological attack. In recent congressional hearings, several lawmakers and the General Accounting Office have raised concerns over Bush's plan to move bioterrorism-related functions from the CDC and NIH to the new department. Testifying before a Senate committee earlier this month, Janet Heinrich, GAO director of public health issues, said, "We have concerns about the proposed transfer of control of public health assistance programs that have both basic public health and homeland security functions from HHS to the new department. These dual-purpose programs have important synergies that we believe should be maintained" (California Healthline, 7/17).
A bill creating a Homeland Security Department faces several "[r]oadblocks" in the Senate, the Post reports. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which drafted that chamber's version of the bill, said last week that attempts to act on the bill before the August recess might be futile because Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and others are considering ways to delay it. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has set a schedule for next week that would devote most of the Senate's floor time to a prescription drug bill, leaving "little time for homeland security." Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he expects a homeland security bill to require four days of floor debate, adding that the Senate should delay its recess until the bill is addressed (Washington Post, 7/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.