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Daschle Terms Administration’s Terrorism Warnings Inadequate

Minority Leader Still Pressing for More Disclosure From Estrada

Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) scolded the Bush administration Wednesday for trying to allay the public’s fear of a terrorist strike with instructions to buy plastic sheeting and duct tape.

“If that is their only response [to CIA and FBI briefings and the alleged re-emergence of Osama bin Laden] then I believe that the people of this country ought to hold them far more accountable than that,” he said at a press briefing.

“This is not an adequate response to the seriousness and the extraordinary difficulties that our country is confronting as we consider what repercussions could come from these attacks,” Daschle continued.

While praising the advice as helpful when it comes to protecting one’s home in the event of a biological weapons attack, he said it could not be the totality of the administration’s response.

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the new Homeland Security Committee, conceded that covering windows with plastic and sealing them shut with duct tape will only help so much.

“It falls into the category of brushing your teeth and keeping your tire pressure at an adequate level — it’s important for any impending disaster such as a hurricane or flood but …” Cox said.

With the economy sputtering and war looming, Daschle was asked if he thought it was an inopportune time for Senate Democrats to threaten to block the confirmation of a Bush judicial nominee they do not believe has fully answered their questions.

“We didn’t ask for this fight, but we will fight until we are accorded the same rights that we’ve been accorded with other nominees,” he said, alluding to the charge that Miguel Estrada, who has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, has stonewalled Senate Democrats.

Daschle reiterated that his Caucus, which has already threatened to filibuster the nomination, would block a vote until it gets answers.

“We have a constitutional obligation to make our best judgment; and we will not allow this precedent to be established whereby a nominee, especially for one of the most important courts of the land, is unwilling to provide information and, based upon his unwillingness, we are still forced to make our vote,” he said.

Finally, Daschle blasted Bush for seeking to repeal the dividend tax for individuals while the federal government is running a deficit and terrorists are poised to strike.

“Number one, we can’t afford it,” he said. “Number two, it’s not stimulative.”

The administration is demanding that Congress find an offset if it wants drought assistance or other additional funding, yet it is not offering one for Bush’s cumulative tax cuts — those enacted and proposed — that collectively would cost the Treasury $4 trillion when interest is added, the Minority Leader said.

“Two, three months ago, the administration had the opportunity to commit $2 billion — and they said it was unaffordable — to additional resources for homeland defense,” he said. “Just last month … we had an amendment that would have allowed $5 billion to go more FBI agents, more Customs agents, more infrastructure investment, more protection, and again we were told it was unaffordable.”

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