When Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff appeared in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security earlier this week, he got an earful from the panel’s chairman, Sen. Judd Gregg (R.-N.H.), who pointedly wondered why the administration isn’t more aggressively committed to funding core functions of the Homeland Security Department such as securing the border.
Last year, the administration tried to fund increases in Homeland Security by upping the airport fee paid by travelers rather than shifting money out of less important federal programs. Sen. Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska) stopped the fee increase. Nonetheless, the administration is again tying an increase in Homeland Security funding to hiking the airport fee — a move Gregg predicts Stevens will block again.
"So this committee is being put in an extremely difficult place by the White House’s proposals on homeland security," Gregg told Chertoff. "We’re being asked to fund an expansion of the Border Patrol, which we are totally committed to and basically created and basically authored and basically drove as a policy, but being told that the funds to do that are going to be illusory. It’s a hollow budget and I can’t understand it because I’ve watched the press conferences where the administration has said it’s committed to border security and domestic defense, and yet, this budget isn’t going to get us there."