Friday, September 21, 2001

Tristate lawmakers united behind president

Members of both parties say all Americans can help

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — After an emotional tour of the devastation in New York, Sen. George Voinovich said Thursday that lawmakers were even more determined to stand with President Bush against international terrorism.

        “You look at that rubble and it takes your breath away. You can't help but think it's a gigantic funeral pyre,” said Mr. Voinovich, R-Ohio, who was among a delegation of senators who traveled by train to witness the recovery effort at the site of the World Trade Center.

        Mr. Bush spoke to a joint session of Congress Thursday night to discuss the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and outline the administration's response.

        Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Mr. Bush chose the time and setting to convey the gravity of the crisis. The congressman, a friend of the president's who is also close to White House aides, suggested some themes for the speech.

        “It's time for us to take back the skies,” Mr. Portman said. “We cannot let the terrorists make us hostages.”

        He also said all Americans could play a role in the recovery, from donating blood to buying stocks.

        Democrats, who would normally have an official response to Mr. Bush's remarks, decided to give the president the stage alone.

        “There's only one voice that needs to be heard (Thursday),” said Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio. “We need to present a united front to both our friends and our enemies.”

        The speech, said Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky., was aimed at assuring the nation and the world that the government is unified against terrorism and the countries that sanction or harbor terrorists.

        Mr. Lucas said he has been asking his constituents in Northern Kentucky not to panic, even as the country prepares for what could be a lengthy military conflict in the Middle East. He said people should go about their business, invest in the stock market and follow through with any domestic travel plans. “Stay the course,” he said.

        Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is looking to the president to give Congress guidance on how to proceed on national security, law enforcement, the airline industry and economic recovery, proposed a bill that would assign federal air marshals to handle passenger and baggage screening at airports and security on as many flights as possible.

        The Department of Justice — instead of the Federal Aviation Administration — would oversee the marshal program, which would cost an estimated $1.5 billion to $3 billion a year.

        “Airport security is a matter for law enforcement, not airport administration,” Mr. McConnell said.

        Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., who lives a few minutes from the Pentagon, finally had a chance to tour that crash site Thursday. He described the mood among rescue workers and investigators as excellent.

        But of the scene where the jet hit the Pentagon, “It's breathtaking in its destructiveness,” he said.


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