USA — Breaking with their leadership, 147 House Republicans joined Democrats to restore $320 million for firefighter grants Wednesday evening even as Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King bluntly warned that new proposed cuts from port, transit and urban security assistance amount to an invitation to an attack.
I believe it is putting us at risk, said the New York Republican, refusing to support his partys $40.6 billion Homeland Security budget brought to the House floor by the Appropriations Committee leadership.
Its important that cities and governments have some sense of continuity of where the funding will come from, and as we approach the 10th anniversary of September 11th do we really want to cut our police departments, our counter-terrorism units, our intelligence units?
To me, this is an invitation to an attack, King said on the floor. We cannot put ourselves in that position.
The $40.6 billion Homeland bill is the first of the 12 annual 2012 appropriations bills to come to the House floor and as such, it poses an early test of budget discipline for the GOP.
The spending total reflects a cut of more than $1 billion from 2011 appropriations, already reduced in April from the prior 2010 levels. Within the new limits, state and local first-responder grants must compete with the pressure to increase FEMA disaster aid funding, especially after the spate of recent storms in the South and Midwest. And the result has been a proposed two-third, $2 billion reduction from the state and local aid funded just a year ago.
Prior to the vote Wednesday evening, local firefighter grants also faced deep cuts under the same bill: dropping from about $800 million currently to $350 million. The amendment, adopted by a vote of 333-87, restores $320 million but only by raiding management accounts in the Homeland Security department to offset the costs.
Privately, lawmakers admit the cumulative administrative cuts are unrealistic and only a temporary solution in expectation of a budget deal with the White House and Senate that will make more money available.