WASHINGTON (AP) Homeland security chief Tom Ridge is turning down a bipartisan request from a Senate committee that he testify, his spokeswoman said yesterday, the latest White House-Congress difference over the war on terror.

Paul Wong
An Afghan fighter with the U.S.-allied forces mans his post yesterday in an advanced fort on the outskirts of the Paktia province village of Lakhtewal, Afghanistan.<br><br>AP PHOTO

The two top members of the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R- Alaska) wrote to Ridge yesterday asking that he appear before their panel.

Ridge coordinates the government”s anti-terrorism effort at home, though the programs themselves are carried out by dozens of other agencies. Appropriations controls much federal spending, including the $38 billion double this year”s total that President Bush has proposed for next year”s domestic security programs.

“Your views and insights on the policies necessary to meet these objectives are critical to the committee and the nation,” the senators wrote.

Ridge spokeswoman Susan Neely said he would not testify because he is an adviser to the president, not a Senate-confirmed head of an agency that implements policy.

“Assistants to the president work for the president,” Neely said. “And the president has spoken his recommendations to the Senate and House” in the budget he sent Congress last month, she said.

Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin had no comment on Ridge”s refusal until the committee receives the homeland security director”s formal response. Asked if Byrd would compel Ridge”s appearance through a subpoena, Gavin said Byrd has not discussed that possibility.

Republican Stevens” signature on the Appropriations Committee letter makes this appear to be a dispute between the executive and legislative branches over the release of information, not a partisan conflict.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and other Democrats asked questions about Bush administration plans for continuing the conflict in Afghanistan that prompted some Republicans to accuse Democrats of politicizing the war, while Democrats said they merely wanted details.

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