Homeland Security: $40.6 billions for 2011

A $40.6 billion Homeland Security appropriations bill cleared the House Thursday evening, ending two days of debate that saw new limits imposed on funding for airport screeners but strong opposition to conservative demands for a broader 10% across-the-board cut from the department‘s programs.

Republicans, including the party leadership, were badly split on the proposed 10% reduction which would have come on top of $1.1 billion already cut from current Homeland funding. And with 127 GOP lawmakers joining Democrats in opposition, the amendment was easily defeated 312-110.

In the case of airport screening personnel, the margin was far closer and reflected a partisan-tinged fight over shifting a greater share of the money to a “screening partnership program‖ that allows airport operators to contract with private security firms as an alternative to government screeners.

All but 17 Republicans backed the amendment adopted 219-204. The chief sponsor, House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) insisted that the approved cut — also about 10% and worth almost $270 million in savings — would be reinvested in a privatized screening account. But Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) argued strongly that the Mica‘s language fell short of accomplishing this and will only wreak havoc for screeners by eliminating thousands of positions.

Adopted 231-188 on final passage, the underlying bill makes such deep cuts elsewhere in state and local first responder grants that the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, New York Rep. Peter King was among the 20 Republicans who voted against final passage.

King broke with his party as well on a final procedural motion whereby Democrats sought to add $75 million for rail security—a major concern for urban areas like New York City dependent on transit and commuter trains.

The added funds would have been fully offset by cuts elsewhere in the bill, but given the partisan circumstances, all Republicans but King opposed the motion which then failed 234-187.


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