House Passes Homeland Security Legislation To Reorganize 22 Existing Agencies
In what would be the largest government reorganization since the creation of the Defense Department in 1947, the House yesterday in a 299-121 vote approved legislation (HR 5710) that would create a new Department of Homeland Security, the Washington Post reports. The legislation would create a department that would absorb the operations of 22 separate agencies (Mintz/Allen, Washington Post, 11/14). Last week, President Bush urged Congress to pass the bill during the lame-duck session, saying legislation to establish the department is "the most important thing to get done" (California Healthline, 11/8). Under the legislation, the department would be responsible for domestic security protection, including training health care workers to respond to potential terrorist attacks. As part of the reorganization, some duties currently handled by HHS would shift to the new department, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response programs and civilian bio-defense research (Washington Post, 11/14).
The homeland security bill also includes a provision that gives special legal protection to health care workers who provide smallpox vaccinations. Under the provision, people or facilities that provide vaccinations would not face personal liability from lawsuits filed by those injured or killed by the vaccine. The federal government would defend any lawsuit and pay any damages, which would be limited to compensation for injuries. Punitive damages would not be permitted under the legislation (AP/Houston Chronicle, 11/13). The Senate is expected to pass the bill in the next few days, and Bush is expected to name a secretary for the new department within weeks of signing the bill (Washington Post, 11/14).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.