Live

Watch CBSN Live

Ridge Could Face Subpoena

The Senate may subpoena homeland security chief Tom Ridge to compel his testimony about President Bush's domestic security spending request, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Sunday.

The White House has opposed Ridge's appearance at a Senate hearing. A Bush spokesman expressed hope for a "satisfactory resolution" that would get lawmakers the necessary information, but White House officials said Monday that Ridge had no intention of testifying.

"We've got to find a way to break the impasse. (Ridge has) got to work with us. There is just too much at stake," Daschle, D-S.D., said Sunday. "Coercion is not ever my first choice."

"We want to look at all of the options at this point. But we're hoping it is not a necessary one. We are still hoping that they will have a change of heart," Daschle said on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

Administration officials say Ridge has privately briefed lawmakers but his refusal to appear before a congressional committee follows the tradition that a member of a president's immediate staff does not testify formally to Congress.

The administration wants spending on domestic security to double next year to $38 billion.

"Hopefully we will come to a satisfactory resolution of this issue that allows Congress to receive information they need while allowing the president to receive confidential advice," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

Ridge has talked to lawmakers by telephone and in informal briefings on Capitol Hill. He will continue those practices, but will stop short of allowing himself to be compelled to testify because Bush considers it to be a separation-of-powers issue, aides said Monday.

"It is highly unusual to demand that a person who has no formal office other than as an adviser to the president has to come up and testify to Congress," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"Once that starts, he will be up there spending all his time on Capitol Hill rather than doing his job," Hatch said on "Face the Nation."

But Daschle said Ridge acts with all the rights and privileges of a Cabinet officer and he should come before lawmakers.

Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, the No. 2 Republican leader, accused Democrats of trying to pick a fight over having Ridge testify.

"He's already indicated he's willing to meet with senators," Nickles said on "Fox News Sunday." "But to have him go before each individual appropriation committee and so on, I think is ridiculous."

The two top senators on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska, wrote Bush on Friday asking to meet to discuss Ridge's refusal to testify. They said Ridge has more power than the ordinary presidential adviser, coordinating spending by more than 80 federal agencies.