Lieberman Lambastes Administration’s Failure to Lead on Homeland Security/First Responder Funding

WASHINGTON – Responding to recent Administration attacks on Congress for inadequately funding first responders, Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Thursday accused the Bush Administration of shedding “crocodile tears” while demonstrating a clear lack of leadership in developing and meeting the nation’s spending priorities. Lieberman called on the Administration to give more than lip service to first responders by committing substantial resources in the FY 2003 supplemental appropriations bill and in the FY 2004 budget. Following is the Senator’s full statement:

“It is stunning to hear the Bush Administration shed crocodile tears about the inadequate funding for first responders in the Fiscal Year 2003 omnibus appropriations bill. The Administration has repeatedly failed to give first responders the support they need and were promised. For a full year, it has shown a demonstrative lack of leadership in helping to craft an appropriate funding package.

“Let’s recall the facts. The Administration’s initial proposal to provide $3.5 billion for first responders in FY 2003 was less than met the eye – since the Administration simultaneously proposed to eliminate certain established and effective programs for first responders, such as the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) and Byrne formula grants.

“Last summer, President Bush blocked $2.5 billion in emergency supplemental funding that included aid to first responders. “And as recently as last month, the Administration opposed Democratic efforts to add billions in critical homeland security funding, including aid to first responders, to the omnibus appropriations bill when it was on the Senate floor.

“Throughout, the President remained detached from the Congressional impasse over the FY 2003 spending bills – a deadlock created in large part by the unduly rigid positions adopted by the White House and adhered to by many Congressional Republicans. “The bottom line is that the White House does little to fight for an appropriate level of first responder money, says little about it as Congress hammers out a spending plan, then after the fact, blames Congress. That’s not leadership. That’s leadership avoidance.

“If the Administration is really serious about correcting this unacceptable situation, it will support additional resources for them in a supplemental appropriations bill and will support significant new resources in the FY 2004 budget cycle. “I have called for $16 billion more in homeland security spending in FY 2004 than the President has called for. Of that, $7.5 billion (in addition to the President’s $3.5 billion) would go to first responders for terrorism related needs – a commitment that should come in addition to, not at the expense of, existing programs such as COPS and the Byrne formula grants.

Once again, however, the Administration comes up short with an FY 2004 proposal of $3.5 billion to help first responders, money that would come at the expense of existing grant programs.”