Thompson Statement Opposing Draconian Cuts to First Responders
(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, delivered the following statement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in opposition to the cuts to first responders in the Conference Report for H.R. 2055, which funds most federal government operations for the remainder of FY2012:
I rise in opposition to this Rule and the underlying measure-- the Conference Report on H.R. 2055. When presented with a 1,219 page funding bill, it is hard to know where to start. As the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, I choose to start by looking at how it will affect our Nation's first responders and the communities they protect. This package—ten years after the attacks of September 11, 2001—is a dangerous departure from the path we've been on as a Nation to build up our preparedness and response capabilities. It abandons the men and woman we count on to save lives.
Since 9/11, there has been a general recognition that, as a Nation, we are dangerously unprepared for the emerging threats we face. That is why past Congresses established an array of Federal grant programs targeted to specific homeland security gaps and needs. Across the country, we have seen the benefits of the path laid by those Congresses toward preparedness, as evidenced by the response to this year's wave of disasters. Today, however, this Congress not only strays from that path but bulldozes it. The conference report slashes more than $2 billion in first responder funding.
Last year, $3.38 billion was provided to communities across the country under FEMA's grant programs, most notably:
- The State Homeland Security Grant Program;
- Urban Area Security Initiative;
- Metropolitan Medical Response System;
- Operation Stonegarden;
- Citizen Corps Program;
- Port Security Grant Program;
- Transit Security Grant Program;
- Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program; and
- Emergency Operations Centers.
This year, under this package, just $1.35 billion is designated for all these grant programs. That is less than half of what we provided just last year. To make matters worse, this package punts responsibility for the tough decisions about funding levels for each program to Secretary Napolitano. The approach taken here should surprise no one. Tough decisions about funding have been punted throughout this session and, as a result, this Congress has moved from shutdown crisis to shutdown crisis.
If this package is enacted, this Congress would be punting responsibility for meeting the homeland security challenges of a post-9/11 world to State, local, and tribal governments. The timing of this shift of responsibility could not be worse. These jurisdictions have budgetary crises of their own and, thanks to these cuts, could be unable to respond to terrorism and natural disasters. We must not ignore the calls from public safety and first responder organizations that have warned us about the devastating effects of these cuts. For this reason, and probably a hundred more, I oppose the conference report.
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