House Puts $7.3B for Transit Security, But Veto May Be Coming

Billions marked for rail, transit security, but DOT v. DHS control in question

The grant provision was inserted into the House bill at the last moment to settle a turf battle between House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn.

The two chairmen agreed to give the Department of Homeland Security authority to set the criteria for the grants, but authorize the Department of Transportation to give the money out.

Despite some criticism over the details, Connecticut lawmakers fully back the proposal to beef up mass transit security.

Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line is one of the busiest commuter lines in North America, carrying more than 115,000 daily commuters last year, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The five-member House delegation voted in favor of the bill.

"Is this legislation perfect? No, but it moves us in the direction we need to go by developing a strategy and directing vital funding and resources toward an area in our nation's homeland security that has long been neglected," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3. "The bottom line is that because of this legislation more dollars will be directed to Connecticut, improving the state's ability to better protect our mass transportation systems."

New York Rep. Nita Lowey said the legislation is "the first step" in closing an enormous gap between federal spending on aviation security and mass-transit security.

"As we saw in the uncovered plot to bomb the Herald Square subway station in New York City, as well as the horrific attacks in Madrid, London and Mumbai, terrorists are targeting mass transit systems, and we must do what it takes to protect and secure our transportation networks," she said. "This bill, for the first time, authorizes dedicated risk-based funding for the security of railroad carriers, public transportation systems, and over-the-road bus systems."

Lowey, a Democrat, said the bill also provides critical funding for fire and line-safety improvements in Amtrak tunnels in the Northeast corridor.

"Every day, thousands of my constituents join more than 7 million riders traveling on Metropolitan Transit Authority trains and buses throughout the New York metro area. They expect and deserve to know that the federal government is just as committed to rail security as it is to other homeland security priorities," she said.

The White House has also issued a veto threat over whistleblower language in the bill that it says would allow individual employees with grievances to disclose classified information.

"Such an independent, uncoordinated decision to disclose classified information could work to jeopardize the rail and transportation security that this legislation seeks to strengthen," OMB wrote.