Bush signs Homeland Security spending bill
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush signed legislation Monday that gives the Department of Homeland Security about $33 billion to shore up the nation’s borders, inspect incoming cargo, protect potential terror targets and train first responders.
Bush signed the bill before leaving the White House for New Jersey, where he delivered a campaign speech in which he attacked Democratic Sen. John Kerry on a wide range of national security questions.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and members of Congress were among those looking on for the brief Oval Office signing ceremony open only to news photographers.
Later, speaking in Marlton, N.J., Bush said the law will improve national security by through outlays for port security, Coast Guard patrols, the federal air marshal program, anti-missile technology for aircraft, foreign visitor inspections and security at chemical facilities, nuclear plants, water-treatment plants, bridges, subways and tunnels.
The ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security said Bush has done too little to secure the nation. Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas, cited deficiencies in the inspection of cargo for nuclear and radiological material, the lack of a comprehensive terrorist watch list and the small percentage of airplane cargo that is screened for explosives.
“The truth of the matter is that the administration is not doing everything it can and should be doing to protect the homeland,” Turner said.
The committee’s chairman, Christopher Cox, R-Calif., countered: “Instead of making partisan attacks, it is time for Democrats to check the facts. Today, America is safer than it has ever been before.”
The $33 billion measure, almost $900 million more than Bush had proposed, finances the Department of Homeland Security for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
It cuts spending for police and emergency responders from last year’s levels by about $500 million, to $3.6 billion for police and other emergency responders. The measure also provides $5.1 billion for the Transportation Security Administration, which is required to triple in the next year the amount of cargo inspected on passenger airliners.