WASHINGTON (AP) – The House voted emphatically yesterday to create a Homeland Security Department, propelling President Bush nearer his goal of answering last year’s terrorist attacks with the biggest restructuring of government in half a century.

The 299-121 roll call – and a pair of favorable procedural votes in the Democratic-run Senate – signaled that lawmakers were ready to award a legislative triumph to a president whose hand was strengthened by Republican victories in last week’s congressional elections.

Bush began supporting the idea of a huge new department combining 22 agencies this summer after initially coming to office seeking to diminish the role of government in Americans’ lives.

“Times have changed and it’s imperative to the security of our country and the security of our families that our government change as well,” said Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Opposition came mostly from Democrats arguing that the bill still lacked adequate job protections for the new agency’s 170,000 workers. Voting for the measure were 212 Republicans and 87 Democrats, while six Republicans, 114 Democrats and one independent voted “no.”

The bill is “just another example of the Bush administration’s union-busting policies,” said Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.).

Among the agencies the bill would combine are the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Customs Service.

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