Wednesday, February 22, 2006
AP: Congress unfazed over Bush veto threat over port security - Feb. 22
By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer -- Wednesday, 16 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Lawmakers determined to capsize the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates said's surprise veto threat won't deter them.
An aerial view of the Port of Miami is shown in this file photo. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2006, that his brother, President Bush, would adequately protect national security as part of the federal government's approval of the sale of a ports operator to a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates. Under a proposed deal, a British company that has been running some operations at six U.S. ports would be acquired by Dubai Ports World. The British company owns a 50 percent share in the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)
Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House that the $6.8 billion sale could raise risks of terrorism at American ports. In a forceful defense of his administration's earlier approval of the deal, he pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.
The sale's harshest critics were not appeased. "I will fight harder than ever for this legislation, and if it is vetoed I will fight as hard as I can to override it," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., chairman of the news, bio, voting record) of New York said they will introduce emergency legislation to suspend the ports deal.Committee. King and Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (
Another Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, urged his colleagues to force Bush to wield his veto, which Bush -- in his sixth year in office -- has never done. "We should really test the resolve of the president on this one because what we're really doing is securing the safety of our people."
White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Wednesday the UAE company, Dubai Ports, "is a reputable firm that went through a congressionally approved vetting process." He said the U.S. has "the necessary safeguards to make sure that the security of our country is in place" and that rejecting the deal would send "a dangerous signal to people overseas that America plays favorites."
"The president wants this deal to go forward because it was followed by the book and he wants Congress to understand that," Bartlett said on CBS' "The Early Show." He told Fox News Channel that Bush felt strongly that "we need to be adding strategic partners" in the Mideast.
But Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), D-Del., said the bipartisan opposition to the deal indicated "a lack of confidence in the administration" on both sides. "Sure, we have to link up with our Arab friends but ... we want to see and those in Congress want to know what ... safeguards are built in," Biden said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
The first-ever sale involving U.S. port operations to a foreign, state-owned company is set to be completed in early March. It would put Dubai Ports in charge of major shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. "If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward," Bush said.
Defending his decision, Bush responded to a chorus of objections this week in Congress over potential security concerns in the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.
Bush's veto threat sought to quiet a political storm that has united Republican governors and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and House Speaker Dennis Hastert with liberal Democrats, including New York Sens.and Schumer.
To assuage concerns, the administration disclosed some assurances it negotiated with Dubai Ports. It required mandatory participation in U.S. security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials; roughly 33 other port companies participate in these voluntarily. The Coast Guard also said it was nearly finished inspecting Dubai Ports' facilities in the United States.
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