Senator Murray Responds to Representative Dunn’s Statement on Homeland Security Funding

Mar 04 2003

Cites concerns of Bellevue Police Chief, Washington State Firefighters, Richland Mayor about Republican cuts

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – In an editorial in today's Seattle Times, Representative Jennifer Dunn defended her party's cuts to homeland security funding and attacked a recent editorial written by Sen. Patty Murray and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

Dunn lamented that "the facts have taken a back seat to partisan politics." But even the President of the United States criticized Republican congressional leaders for cutting the homeland security funding that Representative Dunn is defending.

Sen. Murray released the following statement:

Mayor Nickles and I must have tapped a sensitive vein of concern in the Republican political machine for Jennifer Dunn to respond the way she did to our recent editorial regarding Homeland Security funding that appeared in The Seattle Times.

In our submission, we criticized the Administration and the majority Republicans for being penny-wise, but pound-foolish when it comes to supporting homeland security and the first responders who protect America. Mayor Nickels and I contended that prioritizing more tax cuts over aid to firefighters, police and emergency personnel is wrong-headed.

But today, in a 700-word editorial in the Seattle Times, Representative Dunn resorted to political attacks. She dismissed our criticism of GOP cuts to homeland security as "partisan" and ignored the debate about how to make America safer.

Representative Dunn may truly believe that her party's homeland security cuts were prudent. But when the President of the United States complains about those cuts, the chorus of criticism cannot be dismissed as "partisan."

And that's exactly what the President did. Upon signing the 2003 Omnibus spending bill last month, President Bush said "I am very concerned that the Congress failed to provide over $1 billion in funds that my Administration requested for State and local law enforcement and emergency personnel… As a result, the shortfall for homeland security First Responder programs is more than $2.2 billion."

The President's criticism of the bill produced by Representative Dunn and her allies is somewhat disingenuous, given the fact that he rejected $2.5 billion in Homeland Security funding last year. But that doesn't make it any less valid.

Apart from what elected officials in Washington, D.C. have said about homeland security, I believe it is instructive to hear the voices of Washington state's first responders.

I have heard from every corner of the state, including Congresswoman Dunn's home town, about the homeland security cuts that she is now defending.

On January 16, 2003, I received a letter from Jim Montgomery, the Chief of Police for the City of Bellevue. He wrote:

"As chief of the Bellevue Police Department, I am writing to express my concern about funding cuts to crucial law enforcement programs in the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Fiscal Year 2003 Appropriations bill… I was very concerned to learn that $2.1 billion was cut from the CJS bill that was reported from the Appropriations Committee in July 2002."

In particular, Chief Montgomery cited the cuts to the COPS program that helps fund four police officers in Bellevue as an especially painful cut.

On February 20, 2003, I received a letter from our state's fire fighters – the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to ensure that our homes and communities are safe. They wrote,

"Last August, Congress (led by a Democratic majority in the Senate) provided President Bush $2.5 billion in emergency homeland security funding, for him to release to local police and fire departments if he thought it was needed. Regrettably, he rejected that funding, and vowed, 'we'll spend none of it.' President Bush held back hundreds of millions of dollars for equipment, training and other needs for our first responders.

Firefighters in Washington and across our nation have received plenty of praise and accolades since 9/11; we have been invited to many photo ops. But our cities and towns, our counties, our fire districts, and their fire departments are still waiting for that funding. In fact, our state has yet to see a dime of money that was promised by the Bush administration to help our firefighters and paramedics."

And on November 13, 2002 I received a letter from Robert Thompson, the Mayor of Richland, who wrote about the urgent need for funding for first responders. He urged Congress to:

"restore the $2.5 billion in homeland security funding contained in the 2002 supplemental appropriation bill that was approved by the Congress in July, then withheld by the Bush Administration."

At this point, the Homeland Security funding ledger reads like this: On one side you have Mayor Nickles and I, the President of the United States, 6,500 Washington firefighters, the Bellevue Chief of Police, and the Mayor of Richland. On the other side is Jennifer Dunn.

Representative Dunn has recently been appointed to the newly created Homeland Security Committee. As I learned in attending countless hours of hearings on the Appropriations Committee on how best to support our nation's security interests, Representative Dunn is about to encounter some unpleasant truths.

It is time to set aside the talking points, and really work to understand what is occurring all over the country today with regard to Homeland Security. No one is elected to be a rigid mouthpiece for their party. We all need to work together and do more. We all need to focus on our real job, and that is serving the citizens of our great country. They are not served by dismissing legitimate concerns.

They are not served by partisan sleights of hand. Our communities and our constituents deserve better.

I intend to do my best to provide them the leadership, vision, and commitment that they deserve to provide not only the rhetoric but the resources to protect our nation. I hope others will join me.