Senators add $2 billion to spending bill for security programs

The $121.6 billion emergency supplemental spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday includes more than $2 billion for domestic homeland security programs.

Funding allocations differ in several ways, however, from companion legislation in the House, setting up issues that will need to be resolved in conference.

Both bills would boost funding for border and port security, rail and mass transit grants and for purchasing explosives detection equipment at the nation's airports.

But the Senate bill would provide $625 million for rail and mass transit security grants, compared to $225 million provided by the House bill.

"Despite the train bombings in London, Madrid, Moscow, Tokyo and Mumbai, [the Homeland Security Department] has limited its response to issuing unenforceable policy directives, deploying two very limited pilot programs, and distributing limited amounts of money to secure rail and transit facilities," Democratic appropriators said in a release.

"The transit community has estimated $6 billion is needed in security related costs," appropriators added. "This legislation helps to meet that need."

In other areas, though, the House bill provides more funding.

House appropriators, for example, allocated $1 billion for buying and installing in-line baggage explosives detection systems at airports. The Senate bill provides $600 million for that effort.

The House bill also provides $160 million to increase the screening of air cargo carried on passenger airplanes. By comparison, the Senate bill would provide about $75 million.

The two bills are aligned in other ways, however.

Both would provide an additional $190 million for port security grants, bringing total fiscal 2007 funding up to $400 million -- the amount authorized in a major maritime security bill signed into law last year.

"Currently, major projects that would provide serious security for our ports are not occurring because there is simply not enough funds allocated to ports each year to tackle larger projects," appropriators said in the statement.

Democrats also successfully included language in the bill clarifying that states have the right to pass and enforce stronger chemical security laws than the federal government.

"The safety of our citizens and the security of our chemical facilities is simply too important to ignore," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who took credit for inserting the language. "It's time to protect the nation and to put the needs of the American people over the wants of the chemical industry lobbyists."

The chemical industry heavily opposes the language, arguing that the Homeland Security Department should be given time to issue final chemical security regulations that create a level regulatory regime across the nation.

The House bill goes farther than the Senate bill when it comes to regulating chemical facilities, setting up another issue that will have to be resolved in conference.

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