Amendment to Homeland Security Appropriations Bill Fails in Senate

An effort to attach $70 million in funding for interoperable public safety equipment to the Homeland Security Dept. (DHS) appropriations bill failed Thurs. on a mostly party-line vote. Sen. Boxer (D-Cal.) pushed an amendment to the bill that would have taken $70 million from DHS funding for a human resources system and created a grant program for states and localities. Boxer said the DHS funding bill contained no specific funding for interoperability and had only $31 million for interoperability R&D. During her floor remarks, Boxer said the bill didn't raise the overall spending and used an offset to compensate. However, Sen. Cochran (R-Miss.) argued that the bill already had $2.85 billion for states in grants, which could be used equipment and training, including interoperability equipment. Cochran said the fund couldn't be used for construction. The grant program has steered $680 million to Cal. since 2002, Cochran said. Cochran argued the states should be flexible in how they want to spend the funding: "To make a judgment as to how they should use the money now and earmark certain parts for specific functions is beyond our ability to really make the decisions and make them in a correct way that serves the final goal, the objective of an improved national homeland security program." On a party-line vote, Republicans tabled the amendment 46-45, with Senate Commerce Committee McCain (R-Ariz.) voting for the amendment.