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House homeland security leaders lament appropriations bill passage

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS)

Although the House of Representatives passed a $42.3 billion homeland security appropriations bill late on June 2, the leadership of the House Homeland Security Committee voted against the measure that would cut funding of the department by about 10 percent.

The Homeland Security appropriations bill (H.R. 2017) passed the House late on June 2 by a vote of 231 to 188, with 127 House Republicans voting against the cost-cutting bill. Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) and ranking member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) both voted against it. Thompson lamented arbitrary reductions and partisanship.

King had voted for an additional $75 million for rail security to be included. He has repeatedly said rail security around major urban areas needs shoring up. He also voted to restore $320 million in firefighter grants and questioned further cuts to infrastructure protection given that it is a proven target for Al Qaeda.

In a statement on June 2 after the bill’s passage, Thompson said he had grave concerns about the cuts and overall approach by the House to homeland security issues. Homeland security has largely been left untouched in the past as Congress sought to expand protections and budget for programs. However, as the federal budget tightened this past winter and spring, homeland security became a target for big reductions.

“This bill is simply an assault against the progress we’ve made protecting the homeland over the past ten years,” said Thompson in a statement. King hadn’t issued a statement on his reaction to the passage by the morning of June 3.

“I voted against this bill because not only did it arbitrarily cut the DHS budget, but it ignores gaps in preparedness grants for first responders and counterterrorism initiatives,” said Thompson.

Thompson further criticized the measure for preventing collective bargaining at the Transportation Security Administration, something TSA employees have been seeking. TSA Administrator John Pistole agreed to allow collective bargaining last February and two labor organizations are jockeying to represent TSA employees.

“Furthering the Republican anti-worker political agenda, this bill prevents TSA screeners from collective bargaining rights and calls for the elimination of up to 8,000 critical jobs,” said Thompson

“Homeland Security should be a bipartisan issue but this shows how much the Republican leadership cares about homeland security. I will work to fix the severe problems of this bill as it moves through the legislative process and am hopeful for a better end product.”

 

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