House Appropriations Panel Recommends $5 Billion For Southern Border Wall; Democrats Opposed

The House panel that oversees appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday said it is recommending a budget increase for the department in fiscal year 2019, with a substantial chunk of the boost targeted for new physical barriers on the southern border.

Overall, the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee is proposing $51.4 billion in discretionary spending for DHS, about $4 billion more than requested and $3.7 billion more than enacted in fiscal year 2018.CAPITOL

The panel will mark up its proposal on Thursday and hasn’t released its detailed recommendations but a press release says $5 billion for border security assets and infrastructure, which would include funding for more than 200 miles of new physical barrier construction along the southern border and $126 million for border security technology.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of a DHS spending bill last month that includes $48.3 billion in discretionary funding for the department and nearly $1.7 billion for border security assets and infrastructure that would provide for 65 miles of pedestrian fencing on the southern border, in line with the amount requested by the Trump administration. Border security technology in the Senate Appropriations bill is less than what the House panel is recommending.

The House panel is also proposing $223 million for non-intrusive inspection equipment and 140 new Customs and Border Protection canine teams in what it says is the start of a five-year strategy to achieve 100 percent scanning on the southern border.

Other highlights for CBP, which would receive $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations from the House panel, $3.8 billion more than in FY ’18, include $142 million for new aircraft and sensors, including one new large unmanned aircraft system and three multi-role enforcement helicopters, and $108 million for opioid detection at international mail and express consignment facilities.

“Keeping Americans safe while protecting or homeland is a top priority,” Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kans.), chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, said in a statement. “This funding bill provides the resources to begin building a wall along our southern border, enhance our existing border security infrastructure, hire more border patrol agents, and fund detention operations.”

The Republican border security proposal drew swift condemnation from Democrats.

“The inclusion of $5 billion for President Trump’s border wall in House Republicans’ Homeland Security bill is an extreme example of wasteful spending prompted by a seeming need to cater to the whims of President Trump,” Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Homeland Security panel, said in a joint statement. “After the shame of the Trump family separation policy, this funding only further enables this administration’s obsession with cruel attacks on immigrants and their families.” The said the bill will be opposed by Democrats.

The Coast Guard doesn’t make out as well in the panel’s proposal and there doesn’t appear to be any funding offered for the first heavy polar icebreaker.

The service would receive $9.3 billion from the House appropriators, $900 million less than the amount approved by Senate appropriators and about $400 million less than requested. The House panel recommends $1.4 billion for the Coast Guard’s acquisition account, nearly $700 million less than approved by the Senate appropriators, who provide $750 million for construction of the first new heavy polar icebreaker.

The House panel is recommending funding for six Fast Response Cutters (FRCs), which are built by Bollinger Shipyards, two more than funded by the Senate appropriators. Like the Senate, the House panel is recommending funding for the second Offshore Patrol Cutter, which is being built by Eastern Shipbuilding.

The House panel would also provide $1.9 billion for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, including $1.1 billion for cyber security efforts to protect the federal civilian government. The cyber funding is the same as approved by Senate appropriators. The release says there is also funding to modernize biometric identity management, a likely reference to the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology program.

Funding for the Transportation Security Administration is proposed at $7.3 billion, which includes spending for 240 new imaging systems screening carry-on bags at airport checkpoints. These imaging systems are likely the computed tomography-based scanners that TSA plans to purchase. The Senate appropriators recommend $71.5 million in their bill for 145 CT machines.

The House panel also rejects the administration’s proposed closure of Science and Technology Laboratories and restores funding for University Centers of Excellence. The panel recommends $802 million for S&T, $230 million above the request and $11 million less than Senate appropriators provided.

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