Republicans Pass a DHS Authorization Bill In Name Only
(WASHINGTON) – Today, the Committee on Homeland Security completed consideration of the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (H.R. 3116). Despite many Democratic efforts to better the legislation, the Republican majority failed to adopt most of them, resulting in almost every Democratic Member voting against the legislation.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the following statement following his vote against final passage of the bill:
"There are three fundamentals for any authorizer– conducting oversight, providing direction on programs and policies, and authorizing appropriations. The failure of this Committee to produce a bill with a top-line funding level for DHS represents a dereliction of our duty as an authorizing committee. It is this Committee's responsibility to translate oversight findings and expertise into policy that will make the country more secure. Instead, with approval of this bill, we have abdicated our responsibility to the Appropriations Committee, which already passed a bill this spring that slashed the DHS budget."
"I am pleased, however, that even with this sharp divide on some very basic issues, Democrats were able to succeed in having over 50 of their amendments approved. From reallocating spectrum for first responders to reauthorizing the Port Security Grant Program to requiring DHS to buy products made in America, Democrats showed leadership in advancing critical homeland and hometown priorities."
- An amendment to guarantee access to the D-Block spectrum to first responders for emergency communications.
- 'Buy American' amendments to require DHS to purchase goods made in America, including textiles for uniforms as well as computer and cybersecurity equipment and services.
- An amendment to require DHS to address the homeland security challenge of visa overstays by finally completing implementation of US-VISIT.
- An amendment authorizing $1.6 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to remove dangerous and criminal aliens.
- An amendment authorizing the popular international trusted traveler programs administered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI.
- Amendments reauthorizing the Port Security Grant Program through 2014 and allowing ports to use grant funds for security personnel.
Democratic Efforts Voted Down:
- An amendment which would have authorized an additional 1,000 border patrol agents by the end of fiscal year 2013.
- An amendment which would have prohibited budgetary offsets for emergency disaster assistance.
- An amendment which would have stricken a provision authored by Chairman King to establish a coordinator position at the Department for "countering homegrown violent Islamist extremism." Associating the homegrown violent radicalization with a particular religion is not an effective way to address this vexing homeland security challenge.
- An amendment which would have established a counterterrorism coordinator at the Department of Homeland Security. Despite the Republican rhetoric about their commitment to counterterrorism, when it came time to actually authorize a position, they balked at authorizing it.
- An amendment which would have required CBP to issue standards about how electronic devices, such as laptops and smartphones, that are searched or confiscated at borders, including airports, will be handled.
- Many Democratic amendments which sought to provide greater resources to the last line of homeland security—our first responders. One amendment would have created a $20 million competitive grant program for cities that were eliminated from the UASI program because of Republican budget cuts. Democrats also proposed amendments to re-authorize firefighter grants for training and equipment and protect the Transit Security Grant Program from being raided by non-transit agencies. Interestingly, despite the fact that many Committee Republicans have supported these efforts in the past, they voted against these amendments—citing the need for "budgetary offsets."
- Many amendments that would have fostered job creation were also rejected. One amendment would have required DHS to give vendors located in Enterprise Zones, HUB Zones, and high unemployment areas a preference in contracting. It would have created employment opportunities in districts throughout the country that have been hardest hit by this recession. Another amendment would have established an Office of Public-Private Partnership within DHS to foster more opportunities for firms with innovative homeland security technologies to do business with DHS. The Republicans rejected this opportunity to foster innovation, promote small business, and create jobs.
- An amendment which would have restricted the broad civil immunity provision in the bill from applying to people who report potential terrorist activity to police based on race, ethnicity, or national origin.
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Media Contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978