Thursday :: Feb 27, 2003

Bush Blames the GOP for His Inadequate Homeland Security Funding


by Steve

After weeks of pounding from Democrats on the subject, President Bush is now admitting that his homeland security funding is inadequate. Yet his admission constitutes either an inept attempt at Clintonian triangulation or an argument for a Democratic Congress. At the National Governors Association meeting earlier this week, Bush surprised the governors and his GOP allies in Congress by trying to put the finger of blame on the GOP controlled House and Senate for the inadequate funding, despite the acknowledgement from GOP leaders that the White House has known for months what was in the spending bills working their way to the President’s desk. As a result, GOP leaders are fuming that the White House seems to be caving in to Democratic pressure and hanging the GOP leadership out to dry.

In remarks that struck some in the audience as unusually sharp given that both houses of Congress are controlled by the president's party, Mr. Bush said that Congress "did not respond to the $3.5 billion we asked for — they not only reduced the budget that we asked for, they earmarked a lot of the money."

"That's a disappointment," he said, "a disappointment when the executive branch gets micro-managed by the legislative branch."

Congressional leaders have insisted that they provided the full $3.5 billion sought by President Bush for so-called first responders, like local fire and police departments.

But White House officials say most of that money went to emergency-response programs that had little to do with counterterrorism, a view shared by some private budget specialists who have reviewed the bill.

"We wanted specific counterterrorism funding," said a White House official. "We weren't talking about community policing programs. We weren't talking about grants to buy bulletproof vests for police officers."

The president's remarks, which came two weeks after the White House raised the color-coded national terrorist alert to "orange," signifying a "high risk" of terrorist attack, have infuriated Republicans in Congress, who say they closely consulted with the White House in preparing the spending deal.

Aides to Republican leaders said they would not publicly respond to Mr. Bush for now. But the aides accused the White House of bowing to pressure from Congressional Democrats, including likely presidential candidates, who have charged that Mr. Bush is putting the nation at risk by spending too little on domestic security.

A Republican Congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Republicans were angry over the efforts of the White House to distance itself from the domestic-security provisions of the spending bill.

"We told the White House months in advance what we were going to do with this bill — and we believe it provides an historically unprecedented amount of money for state and local assistance," the aide said.

Mr. Bush's remarks will strengthen the hand of Congressional Democrats who have announced their intention to seek billions of dollars in new counterterrorism financing in a supplemental budget request next month.

Aside from the lame attempt to escape blame, the White House is also admitting several things here. First, Bush doesn’t read what he signs, nor does his staff pay attention to what his own party writes in Congress. Second, they are quite willing to run against their own Congressional members next year when it suits them, thereby arguing against the benefits of one-party control. Third, his staff just targeted items that could be called law enforcement pork as undesirable elements of these bills, which is curious since he didn’t raise these objections over the vast pork in the most recent appropriations bills he also signed, inserted by GOP and Democratic members alike. That should make for interesting campaign fodder next year.

And fourth, it validates to the Democrats that with constant pressure they can force Bush to hang his own people out to dry when it suits him, while handing the Dems an advantage.

Steve :: 9:37 AM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!