Border fence stalls fiscal 2010 spending bill

Disputes over several issues are holding up the annual Homeland Security spending bill, including funding for border fencing and the construction of a biodefense facility. And with the new fiscal year three days away, Republicans are seizing on the stalled bill to accuse Democrats of putting the nation's security at risk.

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said on Friday that "significant substantive differences" remain in reconciling the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

Until the differences are resolved, appropriators plan to continue funding the department at current levels under a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating when the new fiscal year begins on Thursday.

One outstanding difference concerns an amendment in the Senate bill that would require the department to build 700 miles of reinforced double-layered physical fencing along the Southwest border, Obey's office said on Monday.

That amendment was added by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and would require the department to complete the fencing by Dec. 31, 2010. But the department and other lawmakers assert that 700 miles of double-layer fencing is unnecessary and prohibitively expensive. The GAO reported this month that one mile of fencing would cost about $6.5 million.

With frustration apparently mounting, House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Harold Rogers, R-Ky., called on Democratic leaders on Monday to wrap up a conference on the bill.

"If there are outstanding issues as the chairman suggests, you appoint conferees and go to conference to work out these tough issues," Rogers said in a statement. "The bill is at a place where a true conference negotiation could resolve these last few outstanding issues out in the open, but we're not sure what the majority is afraid of."

Another holdup involves funding to build the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., Obey's office said.

The House bill would deny a $36.3 million request to construct the facility and would prohibit obligation of any funds until a separate risk assessment of the site is completed by an entity other than the Homeland Security Department.

But the Senate bill would provide construction funds, pending a safety assessment and report from the department.

The spending bill's lack of movement triggered a brusque exchange Friday between Rogers and Obey.

"Instead of actually doing our work and fulfilling the security needs of our nation, we are placing a priority on Congress' own budget, putting Homeland Security spending on ice, taking the next few Mondays and Fridays off and basically waiting around until October until we get further direction from on high," Rogers said on the House floor.

Obey said it is "patently preposterous to suggest that this bill is being delayed in any way."

"Under the rules of the body, we can't bring a conference bill back to this House until we've reached agreement on all of those differences," he said. "If the gentleman wants to resolve those by agreeing with our position on each of them, I would be happy to see them go to conference right now."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.