Senate Shifts Iraq Money to Border Control
The Senate voted yesterday to shift $1.9 billion from the Iraq War to border patrol efforts.
Prodded by Republicans, the Senate voted on Wednesday to trim President Bush’s financing request for the Iraq war by $1.9 billion and to use that money to improve border security. The vote, 59 to 39, was on an amendment to an emergency spending measure and was cast on a day of difficult choices for Republicans. They passed up opportunities to strip the bill of provisions unrelated to its primary purpose of paying for hurricane relief and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This bill is about national defense, especially relative to terrorism,” said Senator Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who is the amendment’s lead sponsor. “And, yes, fighting the war in Iraq is critical to this war on terrorism. Fighting the war in Afghanistan is critical to this war on terrorism. But I have to think equally important is making sure that our borders are secure.”
The amendment would provide money to the Border Patrol and Coast Guard for new airplanes, helicopters, patrol boats and communications equipment. Democrats criticized the proposal as “a false, cheap choice to secure political points,” in the words of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York.
The debate exposed a widening rift among Republicans over fiscal policy, in particular the special projects known as earmarks. Those divisions forced the House Republican leadership this month to abandon its effort to pass a budget. Now they are complicating the debate over the emergency spending bill, known in Senate lexicon as a supplemental, and threatening to derail lobbying legislation in the House.
In the Senate, 35 Republicans, enough to sustain a veto, signed a letter on Wednesday saying they would back Mr. Bush if he decided to veto the bill. Senator George Allen of Virginia, who like many other Republicans is campaigning for re-election on a theme of fiscal restraint, was among the signers. “I think an emergency supplemental ought to deal with only emergency matters,” Mr. Allen said.
When a Senator simultaneously votes for a bill and simultaneously signs a letter saying he will vote against it if it is vetoed, it is hard to deny that it is indeed “a false, cheap choice to secure political points.”
Although, to be fair, it is easy to defend politically: “I voted for it before I voted against it.” That slogan works every time.