Congress deserves to hear from Ridge

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2002

A refusal to testify always raises the ire of Congress. This is a time-worn rule that Bush administration officials don't seem to understand.

Two senators --a Republican and a Democrat -- are asking that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge testify before Congress. But Ridge has denied the request. White House officials justify this refusal by saying that Ridge is only an adviser, not a head of an agency that carries out policy.

But this explanation is not likely to go anywhere in Congress. Sens. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, contend that Ridge is not the typical White House adviser because he coordinates spending by more than 80 federal agencies.

The senators said they need to hear the testimony of officials such as Ridge before approving President Bush's proposal to dramatically increase military spending -- by $48 billion to $379 billion next year.

That's an increase of nearly 15 percent -- which would be the biggest such jump since the Reagan years. Ridge's refusal to testify appears to be part of a disturbing pattern in the Bush administration.

Other examples of White House secrecy involve the details surrounding Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force and the administration's contingency plan in case a terrorist attack incapacitates the government. If Bush wants the cooperation of Congress -- a coequal branch of government -- he should keep its members adequately informed about the operations of government.

-- Carlsbad (N.M.) Current-Argus

March 20

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