WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Republican led House approved a bill on Saturday, Feb. 19, with $60 billion in overall cuts to the 2012 budget. Democratic leaders in the Senate have labeled the bill draconian and said one reason they will not support it is because of the bills’ huge cuts to border security.
Tougher border security is an important issue for both Democrats and Republicans this year with both sides arguing on what budget measures should take place. One of the main disagreements between the two parties is a section on page 245 of the 319-page spending bill that states, “For fiscal year 2011, the Border Patrol shall maintain an active duty presence of not fewer than 20,500 full-time equivalent agents.” According to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, the number of agents currently employed is already 20,500, and the agency is currently in the process of hiring 870 more agents. This has Democrats worried that these new hires could be lost when supplemental funding runs out on Oct. 1rst.
According to ABC news, the bill would slash border security spending by an estimated $600 million through the end of this fiscal year which ends on Sep. 30, 2011. The article breaks down the cuts as follows:
- $350 million less than Congress approved last year for border security fencing, infrastructure and technology, which is $124 million below the amount requested by the Department of Homeland Securitiy.
- An estimated $159 million cut compared to last year for Customs and Border Protection modernization and construction programs. This is $40 million less than the amount requested.
- The remainder of the cuts would come in the form of reducing the amount available for Border Patrol salaries and expenses. President Obama’s proposed budget would provide for 21,185 agents, but the bill passed in the House only allocates enough for an estimated 20,500 agents, according to Democrats.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said, “ For gosh sakes, we’ve had everybody talking about secure the borders, secure the borders, secure the borders, and then instead of making some reasonable adjustments in checks we write to oil companies, they’re cutting border security.” However, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tx) seemed hesitant to believe that more funding would help border security. He was quoted in the New York Times Caucus blog as saying, “ Even with all the money in world, the administration would not succeed in securing the border because they are not serious about it.”
The budget bill is expected to encounter high Democratic opposition in the Senate on Monday, Feb. 28 when Congress reconvenes.