Frist comments on terror alert

By Julie Fann
Star Staff
jfann@starhq.com

  
During a teleconference Thursday, Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, R-Tenn., affirmed comments made by the Bush Administration concerning the need for vigilance in the face of a possible terrorist attack. Reflecting on a classified briefing the same morning called by the Secretary for Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, Frist reiterated that the threat of terror is real.
   "It is clear that symbolic sites like those in (Washington) D.C. and specific landmarks, parts of the country that have symbolic value are potential targets," he said. "Though we are better prepared than we were a year ago, people need to stay vigilant, watch their surroundings closely, and take precautions."
   Frist said he also received numerous requests Thursday for a copy of his book on bioterrorism, When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know about Bioterrorism from the Senate's Only Doctor.
   "I never gave copies of my book to my colleagues, except for the health committee, but I've had numerous requests today. Chapter two, on family, is the one to read. It has information on things like masks and protection against bioterrorism at home," Frist said.
   An audiotape with what is believed to be the voice of Osama bin Laden has strengthened the case for war against Iraq. Leaders of Congress and the Bush Administration have become more convinced that there is a connection between bin Laden, Al-Quaida, and Hussein.
   Frist said he has plenty of duct tape, plastic wrap, a gas mask, and plenty of food in his Washington, D.C. home, as well as an escape hood with a carbon filter inside his vehicle. However, Frist said he doesn't have any of those items in his Nashville home.
   "Washington is very much vulnerable to an attack. If a plane flew over the city and dropped anthrax powder on it, I would gather my family in my house and use plastic and duct tape to secure my windows and doors. I think being prepared prevents panic and paralysis," he said.
   Frist has also been actively working to get an omnibus bill that includes 11 appropriations bills for places such as the Nachez Trace Parkway in Tennessee, Chickamauga Dam, and conservations easments passed through Congress. He said the Senate planned to vote last night to pass the omnibus, which also includes monies for local communities for bioterrorism.
   He also said he will continue to fight for Miguel Estrada, judicial nominee for Washington, D.C. Circuit Court. Democrats have said they need more information about Estrada and his judicial experience before they will vote.
   "I will demonstrate to the Democrats that I insist on a fair and equitable up or down vote that is consistent with the traditions of the process established in the Constitution for consideration of nominees," he said.
   He expects Democrats, who were refused memos giving them more facts on Estrada by White House officials, to continue the debate against a man who is 'well qualified'.
   Democrats have not yet tried a traditional filibuster on Estrada, although they say they will if necessary. That means lawmakers take over the Senate floor and refuse to allow the Senate to go home or move to other business until they get their way.
   Democrats say they have enough votes to sustain that type of filibuster against Estrada, who they contend lacks judicial experience. Democrats also complained about his refusal to answer questions about specific cases, including abortion rights, and to provide copies of the memos.
  
The longest traditional Senate filibuster in history belongs to recently retired Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes in opposition to civil rights legislation in 1957. Thurmond failed, and the bill eventually passed the Senate.