Thursday, September 30, 2004

All the President's Men ... Also Turn Their Backs on Homeland Security

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said earlier this month that "our highest responsibility is to the safety and security of the American people.

Frist -- who President Bush praised recently for helping get his agenda passed in the Senate -- apparently was only referring to the $145 billion and counting the Congress has spent in Iraq. When given a chance to fund Homeland Security issues, Frist and his fellow conservatives suddenly discovered fiscal responsibility.

To be sure, the FY 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill passed the Senate by a 93-0 vote. But let's be clear -- in an election year, it would be politically stupid for any Senator to vote against Homeland Security.

But the story behind the story is the number of amendments killed by the GOP majority. And these were not effort to stick random pork on the tail end of a bill. The proposals offered by Democrats dealt with emergency personnel, and air, rail, maritime and chemical security.

Here's the list of amendments that Frist and company killed:

Amendment 3580: $150 million for port security research and development.

Amendment 3596: $300 million for port security.

Amendment 3597: $665 million for high-threat urban areas and port security, $146 million for firefighters, $50 million for the Federal Air Marshals program, $100 million for aviation security, $350 million for rail security.

Amendment 3609: $70 million for systems that allow real-time communication between State and local first responders.

Amendment 3615: $70 million for identification and tracking of shipments of hazardous materials.

Amendment 3617: $100 million for the Coast Guard operations.

Amendment 3619: $70 million for security at chemical plants.

Amendment 3632: $625 million for discretionary grants for high-threat, high-density urban areas.

Amendment 3655: $350 million to improve security at points of entry into the United States.

***

Frist calls security our "highest responsibility." President Bush says "We're safer," but on issue after issue, the Bush administration has taken steps that are being described as inert.

Consider the seemingly obvious need addressed in Amendment 3609 -- money for systems that allow real-time communication between responders to the scene of a terrorist attack or other similar crisis.

Christian Science Monitor offered this example of the need during a crisis: "When the NYPD helicopter pilot circling the World Trade Center warned that "large pieces" of the South Tower looked about to topple, the report never got to the firemen inside: Their radios couldn't communicate with those of the police."

But, as the Monitor reported on Sept. 15, three years after 9/11, "the goal of compatible and adequate communications among the nation's first responders is nearly as remote as ever."

The 9/11 Commission "recommends that Congress expedite the increased assignment of radio spectrum for public safety purposes." But the Federal Communications Commission proposes setting that date at Jan. 1, 2009 - three years later than legislation now pending in Congress.

According to the Monitor: "In addition, the FCC is opting for a hands-off approach by encouraging the private sector to take the initiative in ensuring preparedness in an emergency. Critics say it's a case of political inertia where action is needed."

And, of course, Frist and his conservative friends killed the first responder amendment, like so many other necessary provisions for Homeland Security.

***

Democrats talk about how the Bush administration has woefully underfunded Homeland Security -- such as having $46 million in the FY 2005 budget for port and border security, when a 2002 provision suggests $730 million annually should be spent for this need.

But such talk is often marginalized as "partisan" or "politicizing the war on terror." Folks like Chris Matthews or Judy Woodruff are all too willing to have Democrats and Republicans squabble and bluster, unable to relate to their viewers black-and-white budget statistics.

You can count on President Bush, during tonight's debate, telling viewers that We're safer -- and watch Chris and Judy tell viewers afterward that the president was strong and decisive, facts be damned.

1 Comments:

Blogger don dzikowski said...

Disturbing isn't it?
We can only hope Kerry or moderator Jim Lehrer can air such facts about Bush's true War on Terror during tonight's debate, where they would be exposed to a huge audience. Your piece put a fantasy in my head that Bush will be required to respond. Maybe that would result in the "magic moment" needed by Kerry.
One other idea.
Memo to Bushies: There’s no point to consistency when you are consistently wrong.
I have another fantasy Kerry would use a similar line tonight.

9:14 AM  

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