Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Two Disputed Construction Projects Holding Up Homeland Security FY 2010 Appropriations

Disputes between House and Senate versions of the FY 2010 appropriations measure for the Department of Homeland Security remain unresolved as the end of the fiscal year approaches, and are not likely to get solved in the next two days. The Senate version of the funding measure requires Homeland Security to build 700 miles of reinforced double layered fencing along the Mexican border, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of about $4.55 billion, to be completed by December 31, 2010. The House version of the bill does not provide funds for the fence construction.

The second dispute is over a much smaller appropriation of $36.3 million to build a Kansas State University laboratory for biological weapons defense and defense against attacks on American agriculture. The House version of the appropriation measure prohibits funding of the facility until completion of a risk assessment from outside the Homeland Security Department, while the Senate version is satisfied with the Department's internal analysis of project risks.

In an exchange of remarks on the House floor, Congressman Harold Rogers of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee blamed Obama administration politics for the delay. "Instead of actually doing our work and fulfilling the security needs of our nation, we are placing a priority on Congress' own budget, putting Homeland Security spending on ice, taking the next few Mondays and Fridays off and basically waiting around until October until we get further direction from on high." House Appropriations Chairman David Obey responded that "We can't bring a conference bill back to this House until we've reached agreement on all of those differences."
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