Washington, DC – The Senate today approved an amendment offered by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) to provide $855 million to restore cuts to vital first responder programs in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, and for port security grant dollars. The Collins-Lieberman amendment as it was approved provides an additional $565 million for state homeland security programs that support first responders, $150 million for port security grants, and $140 million for community policing and local anti-drug efforts. The original proposed amendment would have provided funding to hire additional border patrol agents, but an amendment to accomplish the same goal was approved separately by the Senate.
The funding restored by the Collins-Lieberman amendment will be fully offset so it will not increase the deficit. The measure was approved by a vote of 63-37 as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2006 budget resolution that is currently being considered in the Senate.
The Collins-Lieberman homeland security amendment restores funding to last year’s levels for homeland security grant programs, such as the State Homeland Security Program, Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, Urban Area Security Initiative, Metropolitan Medical Response System, Emergency Management Performance Grants, and the FIRE Act and SAFER programs. The amendment will ensure at least the same amount of funding for the nation’s ports as last year. It also restores federal funding for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Program) and Byrne grants administered by the Department of Justice.
“This is great news for local first responders, it restores vital resources that our first responders need to keep our communities safe. This sends an overwhelming, bipartisan message that our firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, and emergency managers are a top priority,” said Senator Collins. “Secretary Ridge put it well when he said that ‘homeland security starts with hometown security.’ Improving our preparedness is an investment that we must make to strengthen our ability to prevent, detect, and respond if required to terrorist attacks.”
“This vote is an indication that Democrats and Republicans believe our first responders are being short changed,” Lieberman said. “Homeland security cannot be had on the cheap and our first responders must have the training and equipment they need to keep our communities as safe as possible.”
Senators Collins and Lieberman have also introduced legislation that would redefine the federal homeland security funding formula to target billions of dollars toward high risk states and cities while ensuring that all states receive the resources needed to prevent and be prepared for potential terrorist acts.