$31 Billion Is Voted

For Homeland Security

The Senate approved a $31 billion homeland security spending bill for 2006 after defeating efforts to add $1.2 billion to secure mass transit systems in the wake of the London bombings.

The bill, which passed 96 to 1, would fund immigration and customs enforcement, airport security, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, and a host of anti-terrorism grants to protect ports, mass-transit systems, and chemical and nuclear facilities.

Senators rejected a series of efforts to substantially increase spending for mass-transit systems and firefighters, police and other emergency-service providers.

"We must guard against what the world witnessed last week in London," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), sponsor of the amendment to add $1.2 billion in mass-transit spending -- two-thirds of it for security infrastructure such as surveillance, fencing and detection systems for explosives.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) questioned such a huge spending increase, saying, "There isn't enough money in the federal treasury to effectively address securing the entire transit system in America."

The debate over protecting mass transit came during a four-day Senate debate on $30.8 billion for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 for the Department of Homeland Security.

The legislation also provides nearly $9 billion for border security, including funds to hire new border agents and immigration investigators and for completing a fence along the California-Mexico border.

Democrats Challenge

GOP on the Deficit

Democrats cautioned yesterday that the long-term deficit picture remains troubling despite new White House figures showing the budget deficit will dip to $333 billion this fiscal year, from $412 billion in 2004. "I think we should give a wary welcome to the news that the 2005 deficit projection is smaller and receipts are higher than the administration estimated in February," John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.), ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said during a hearing. "We have no assurance that these revenues will be recurring; and in any event, they still leave the deficit for this year . . . the third largest on record."

Kent Conrad (N.D.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, noted that even with a projected decline in the deficit, the overall U.S. debt is going up by $587 billion this year. "By using Social Security trust fund dollars to pay for tax cuts and other government spending, the administration significantly understates the true fiscal imbalance of the country," he said.

-- Shailagh Murray