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House Passes Security Bill That President Opposes

NY Times | June 16, 2007
JACQUELINE PALANK

The House on Friday approved the spending of $37.4 billion next year by the Department of Homeland Security, calling for significantly more spending than proposed by the Bush administration, including hundreds of millions in extra state and local antiterrorism grants.

President Bush has threatened to veto such a package, saying that it is too expensive and that it includes provisions, like a requirement that department contractors pay their employees more competitive wages, that he opposes. The Senate has not yet passed the legislation.

The spending bill passed 268 to 150. It calls for $2.1 billion in spending, or 6 percent, above the president's request and 14 percent more than in the current fiscal year.

The bill would double the president's financing request for state antiterrorism grants to $550 million and set aside $400 million in grants for port security, $190 million more than the president proposed.

Perhaps the most hotly contested part of the bill is a requirement that department contractors pay their employees at least the local prevailing wage. The provision, part of broader Democratic efforts to enact legislation being pushed by unions, would allow the president to waive so-called Davis-Bacon restrictions only in times of national emergency.

The House bill also withholds financing for the department's new personnel management system until litigation with unions and employees is resolved. In early 2005, they filed suit, asserting that the system would give managers undue power to reward, punish and reassign employees.

Republicans failed in an effort to remove that section from the bill. They also objected to restrictions imposed on the $1 billion allocated to constructing a fence along the Mexican border. Before the money could be allocated, under the Democrats' plan, communities in the area would have to be consulted.

Representative Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky, proposed amendments to address these measures, but they were defeated.

The Senate's version of the House bill, which it largely resembles, was approved by its Appropriations Committee on Thursday but has not yet been scheduled to go to the floor. It provides a total of $37.6 billion.

The House bill would also effectively delay for a year and a half, until June 2009, the mandate that travelers flying to Canada or the Caribbean carry passports for their return, a delay the administration opposes.

The House bill, brought up for debate on Tuesday, was stalled by Republican amendments designed to protest the Democrats' decision not to disclose in the bill legislators' favorite spending provisions, or earmarks.

The Department of Homeland Security operates agencies like Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, the United States Coast Guard, the Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

 

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