By Robyn Lamb and Carolyn Taschner
WASHINGTON – Maryland lawmakers lauded President Bush’s call for “resolve and determination” in the long fight against terrorists and their sponsor states.
Bush, speaking to a joint session of Congress just nine days after terrorist attacks left more than 6,000 people dead or missing, vowed to eradicate terrorism, calling on Americans to remain calm and resolute in what he said would be a campaign unlike any the United States has experienced before.
“This will not be an age of terror. This will be an age of liberty here and across the world,” said Bush in a 35-minute speech that was interrupted 29 times by applause.
In the face of adversity, Bush said, the American people have shown their spirit in their response to the attacks and proved that the state of the union is strong. He also appealed for tolerance toward Muslims and Arab Americans.
“I thought the message above all that the president wanted to send was one of resolve and of determination to stick with this effort,” said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore. “He warned it won’t be quick and it won’t be easy.
“We mustn’t reach some peak now and let it all ebb and flow away .We’re going to have stay with this issue next week, next month, next year,” Sarbanes said.
Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, said the speech “set exactly the right tone internationally, as well as in our own country.”
“I am pleased that he was forceful with Americans” about tolerance of diversity within our own country, she said.
Morella was almost moved to tears, she said, when the president introduced the widow of one of the passengers who apparently wrested control of a hijacked plane away from terrorists, causing it to crash in southwestern Pennsylvania before it could hit any other targets.
Bush also appointed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to a newly created Cabinet position, the Office of Homeland Security, which will report directly to the president on national security issues.
“I was impressed by the order in which he listed the instruments for fighting terrorism,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick. “The last instrument he named was military. It reflects his understanding of this war — that it will be won by drying up funds and by making it impossible for people to harbor them.”
Bartlett said one positive to come out of the attacks, in addition to a renewal of patriotic spirit, is that now the military and intelligence will receive the attention and funding they need. He said they’ve been neglected for far too long.
Bartlett was also glad to see the president went out of his way to discourage people from lashing out based on race or religion, noting that Islam is the largest religion in the world.
The president arrived amid extraordinary security at the Capitol to deliver a speech many in the nation have been waiting for since those attacks.
U.S. Capitol police with dogs lined the entrances to the Capitol, where metal detectors were heavily manned. Security personnel checked identification closely.
Roads around the Capitol were blocked off, forcing many to enter through underground tunnels linking the building to nearby congressional office buildings. Once inside, visitors were confined to their respective positions as safety precaution. Some House members arrived as much as two hours before the scheduled 9 p.m. address.
In response to the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress last week unanimously passed several measures to fight terrorism and provide aid to relief efforts following the attacks. Those actions included a resolution authorizing the president to use any necessary force against the terrorists responsible for the attacks, as well as against any counties that either harbor or assist them.
Congress also approved $40 billion for emergency aid and to combat terrorism, with half of the money available this year and the rest set aside for use in the next fiscal year.
The House and Senate also voted to expedite relief to the families of public safety officers killed or injured in rescue efforts in New York and Washington, and to provide tax relief to victims’ families. That relief will come in the form of exemptions from federal income taxes this year, airline compensation payments, and federal income taxes on Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance payments. There would also be a 50 percent reduction in taxes on victim’s estates.
Other actions in the days after the attacks included:
— a bill allowing the Immigration and Naturalization Service to grant permanent residency to certain non-immigrants in return for their service as informants to law enforcement
— resolutions encouraging Americans to display the flag in solidarity, while condemning bigotry and violence against Muslim and Arab Americans. — CNS reporters Marie Beaudette, Jennifer Dorroh, Kristyn Peck and Melanie Starkey contributed to this report.