The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) on Wednesday passed along party lines a $50.7 billion homeland security spending bill for fiscal year 2021, a measure that includes no new funding for President Trump’s border wall and slashes the request for immigration enforcement.
The proposed budget, which must still be voted on by the House, go through conference with the Senate, and signed into law by the president, is short on what will be signed by Trump, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the ranking member on the committee, said in her opening statement.
“Defunding the wall is the worst step we could possible take if we are serious about security our borders,” she said, adding that reducing funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement means the Department of Homeland Security can’t enforce immigration laws.
“I want to work to resolve these issues and craft a homeland security bill that both addresses our most pressing needs and can be signed into law by the president,” Granger said.
Differences between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration on funding for new border barriers along portions of the southern border led to shutdown of DHS and some other departments of agency lasting more than a month in 2018 and 2019.
“I know it seems like forever ago, but we suffered an extensive shutdown over this same issue,” Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), ranking member on the HAC Homeland Security (HS) Subcommittee, said in his opening remarks for the markup of the DHS bill. “It would be foolish not to learn from our past. We must provide funds for the programs that will allow us to get this bill enacted.”
The HAC’s version of the FY ’21 DHS appropriations bill, supported only by Democrats, zeroes the $2 billion request for border wall funds and rescinds $1.4 billion from Customs and Border Protection’s FY ’20 acquisition account due to the administration’s earlier reprogramming of billions in Defense Department funds for the wall.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), chairman of the HAC HS panel, also called out DHS for reprogramming and transferring funds last year for immigration enforcement over the committee’s objections. And reinforcing Democrats’ hard line on its frustration with large reprogramming actions out of step with agreed-to budgets, she said DHS “has abused the authority provided by Congress. Consequently, the bill includes no authority to transfer funds between accounts and it eliminates most authority to reprogram funds within accounts.”
Just as she said last week during the HAC HS markup of the FY ’21 DHS bill, Roybal-Allard said on Wednesday that a recent reprogramming request to pull funding from “bipartisan congressional priorities” to make up for a shortfall in CBP fee revenue serves only “To make matters worse.”
During the HAC markup, she listed the programs that would take a hit under the proposed reprogramming, including body worn cameras, border security technology, Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft, light enforcement helicopters, and non-intrusive inspection (NII) systems, “which are all critical to CBP’s mission.”
The HAC homeland security bill proposes adding $531.5 million to CBP’s border security technology account, most of it for procurement. The increase includes $190 million more for both NII systems and border security technology.
In a report released Tuesday accompanying its bill, the HAC said the additional NII funds will be for deployments at seaports and land ports of entry, including outbound inspections.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) lauded the additional funds for outbound inspections to help interdict illegal currency and “high-powered guns” leaving the U.S. for Mexican drug cartels, which “kill thousands…of Mexican citizens.”
The committee also wants DHS to report on its plans to scan 100 percent of commercial and passenger vehicles entering the U.S. at land ports of entry using large-scale NII systems. The report should cover progress milestones, acquisition planning and costs, impacts on travel times, port operations, and on secondary screening requirements.
CBP already has about $600 million in pent up funding it plans to spend over the next two to three years on large-scale NII equipment for scanning commercial and passenger vehicles. Those deployments are expected to significantly expand the number of vehicles being scanned but still fall well short of 100 percent scanning.
Companies such as Leidos [LDOS], OSI Systems [OSIS] and Smiths Detection will be competing for the NII contracts. All three recently were awarded contracts and the opportunity to compete for $379 million for high-energy rail inspection systems for CBP.