Friday, September 08, 2006

Senate adds border security funding to Defense bill

September 7, 2006

Senate adds border security funding to Defense bill

By Peter Cohn, CongressDaily

House Republican leaders -- with the White House's apparent blessing -- have
endorsed a Senate move to add $1.8 billion in new spending for border
security on top of additional billions already contained in House and Senate
fiscal 2007 Homeland Security appropriations bills.

The extra funding, along with some scaled-back policy initiatives aimed at
stanching illegal immigration, is designed to placate voters in the absence
of a comprehensive immigration overhaul package, which GOP leaders concede
will not happen before the elections.

The Senate addition is included in the $468.4 billion fiscal 2007 Defense
spending bill. It would fund fencing and vehicle barriers along the Mexican
border, as authorized in the Senate-passed immigration overhaul bill.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has endorsed the $1.8 billion
addition, but the contents of the final package will be subject to
House-Senate negotiations, as will the eventual vehicle for the funds.

Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Judd Gregg,
R-N.H., will be a major player in the talks, and he has his own ideas about
how to spend the money, including for Coast Guard and Border Patrol vehicles
and aircraft.

House Republican aides said there was significant pressure from within the
Republican Conference to include the funds in the fiscal 2007 Homeland
Security bill rather than the Defense spending bill, as a more appropriate
vehicle and not to divert funds from troops fighting in Iraq and

If GOP leaders take that approach, not only will Gregg's leverage be
strengthened, but in the much smaller $32 billion Homeland Security bill it
will be more difficult to find offsets than in the massive Defense bill.
That measure contains an emergency $63.1 billion "bridge fund" that is
nearly double the entire Homeland Security bill. "It's going to happen," a
House leadership aide said. "It's just a question of what's the vehicle."

House conservatives have been quiet about the added costs, but GOP aides
said they were unlikely to raise a fuss over something as politically
important to the party's chances in November. Similarly, while White House
officials said they were reserving judgment until seeing the final package,
they said there would likely be quiet assent to whatever House and Senate
GOP leaders eventually decide.

Another factor which could make the Homeland Security bill the vehicle is
that House-Senate negotiations on the Defense bill could be complicated by a
House rules change governing earmarked spending. Slated for the floor next
week, the change would require committees to disclose project sponsors in
completed conference reports -- including the Defense bill.

The House Defense bill contains $5 billion in earmarks. House Rules Chairman
David Dreier, R-Calif., said the rule change would apply immediately once
approved, meaning potentially plenty of extra staff work that could lengthen
House-Senate Defense negotiations before a conference report could reach the

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