(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the FY 2008 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. Murray helped draft the bill as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
"From the local firehouse and police department, to our borders, airports and seaports, this bill will make our country more secure and better able to respond to disasters," Murray said.
The bill fully-funds Port Security Grants for the first time ever and provides $60 million to build Coast Guard interagency operations centers to coordinate maritime security efforts. The bill also reverses cuts that President Bush sought in his budget to critical law enforcement and first responder programs.
Senator Murray's remarks follow:
Mr. President, we face serious threats here at home, and that's why it's so important that the Senate pass this Homeland Security appropriations bill. It will help us strengthen our security at the federal, state and local levels.
This year in his budget, President Bush sought to cut funding for first responders and for emergency planning, and he failed to adequately fund border security and port security. Thankfully, we have a different view. We want to invest in our security here at home, and we've crafted a bill that reflects the right priorities.
Mr. President, I am honored to serve on the Appropriations Committee and on the Homeland Security Subcommittee under our distinguished chairman, Senator Byrd. No one cares more about the American people, and no one has worked harder on this bill, than Senator Byrd. Thanks to the effort of Senator Byrd and Senator Cochran, this bill passed the subcommittee unanimously, and it passed the full Appropriations Committee unanimously.
That strong support is critical because the President has threatened to veto our bill. He thinks it spends too much on homeland security. The President is welcome to make that argument, but in these times of terror threats and natural disasters, I think the American people want us to provide more support for homeland security – not less.
Our Bill Invests in Homeland Security
There are many important investments in this bill. I'd like to focus on three that I have a special interest in as a Senator from a border state, a state with some of the country's busiest cargo ports, and as an advocate for local law enforcement, first responders and emergency planners.
This bill will provide more resources for border security. It provides an additional $240 million for new immigration-related homeland security costs. These costs are not funded in the President's budget. As we step-up enforcement at our borders, we need to provide the resources from the federal level, and our bill does that.
I'm especially pleased that this bill boosts our investment in port security. Over the years, I've worked with all of the stakeholders to make our ports more secure. Last year, the Senate passed the Murray-Collins GreenLane bill – now known as the SAFE Ports Act. The President signed it into law, but he did not provide adequate funding to carry out many of its provisions. We've been working to fix that in the Senate. We started in the Supplemental bill, where we boosted funding for port security grants and hired more customs inspectors. We're continuing our work with this bill by fully-funding port security grants for the first time ever.
This bill also provides $60 million to create Coast Guard interagency operations centers. These centers will allow the federal government, local, and state authorities to coordinate their efforts on maritime security.
The final part of this bill that I want to mention will be a tremendous help to first responders, emergency planners, and local law enforcement. In his budget, the President cut the State Homeland Security Grant program in half. This bill restores that cut. It will raise these state grants from the President's level of $250 million to the appropriate level of $525 million. Our states and cities have huge security needs, and many of those needs go unmet. I believe the federal government has a role in shouldering this burden.
In addition, the President’s budget drastically cuts the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP). To me, that is totally out of touch with what local law enforcement leaders tell me when I meet with them. They need more help – not less. I'm pleased to report that our bill saves this important program, so it can continue to help local enforcement officials. This grant provides funds for anti-terrorism to our first responders in each of our states. This is an area that we need to strengthen, and we do so with this bill.
The President Bush's Threatened Veto
Given the strong support this bill has gathered in subcommittee and full committee, I am hopeful that we will pass it by a wide margin. Then it will be up to President to decide if the American people will get the security they deserve.
As I mentioned earlier, President Bush has threatened to veto this bill because it spends too much on homeland security. Think about that for a minute. Our intelligence agencies just warned us last Tuesday that Al Qaeda is "undiminished" in its goal of attacking our homeland. But the President wants to cut funding for first responders. The report found that Al Qaeda is rebuilding its capabilities. Its leadership is intact. It "continues to plan high-impact plots." But the President wants to cut funding for local anti-terror efforts. Our intelligence experts "judge that Al-Qa'ida will intensify its efforts to put operatives here" on American soil. But the President wants to cut funding to enforce our borders.
We have all this evidence that we need to be more secure at home, and the President's budget would make us less secure at home. If he wants to veto this bill, he's going to have explain to the American people –
- why the police department down the street will be getting less support,
- why the fire station around the corner will be getting less help,
- and why their community can't develop a emergency plan so they're prepared for a disaster.
If the President really plans to veto this bill, he's going to have to make that case to the American people. I'm proud of this bill. I know it will help our communities take the steps they must take to keep us safe, and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in voting for it.