What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Adequate Funding for Homeland Security : (H.R.2892) On agreeing to the Lewis of California amendment, which increased the amount provided for the Customs and Border Protection agency and funded 200 additional Border Patrol agents (2009 house Roll Call 436)
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(H.R.2892) On agreeing to the Lewis of California amendment, which increased the amount provided for the Customs and Border Protection agency and funded 200 additional Border Patrol agents
house Roll Call 436     Jun 24, 2009
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

H.R. 2892 provided funding for the Department of Homeland Security for the 2010 fiscal year. This was a vote on an amendment to the bill offered by Rep. Lewis(R-CA). The amendment increased the amount in H.R. 2892 for the Customs and Border Protection agency by$34 million, and funded 200 additional Border Patrol agents. It compensated for this spending increase by reducing the amount provided for the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management of the department by $6 million, for the Under Secretary for Management of the department by $14 million, for the Chief Financial Officer of the department by $3 million, and for the Chief Information Officer of the department by $18 million

Rep. Lewis, the Ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, said the amendment was an effort “to restore some balance to what otherwise is a thoughtful and very constructive bill.”  He went on to say that the changes made by the amendment would take “a small fraction of funding . . . for administrative expenses, and add 200 new Border Patrol agents . . . (who) will serve on the front lines of the bloody drug war raging in Mexico and produce increased security across our borders from entry by way of smugglers and people who are coming here for other sorts of contraband activities. My amendment seeks to increase the resources for those who are charged to keep our nation safe and secure as well as ensnare money and illegal weapons flowing southbound . . . .”

Lewis also argued that the U.S. could not “risk a reduction in the size of the Border Patrol when our border security needs are so great and the agent attrition rate is now creeping up to about 11 percent.” Lewis justified the decreases he proposed in what he described as “administrative, policy, and bureaucratic functions” by claiming that “a higher priority ought to be given to border security . . .”, and that the bill already provided for a 14.8% increase in funding for the administrative offices of the department.

Rep. Price (D-NC), the chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, who was managing H.R. 2892, opposed the amendment. He began by saying “this is an amendment that the Department of Homeland Security did not request and does not support .” Price then noted that the Customs and Border Protection agency already had more than 20,000 agents, which was double the number it had in 2003. Price argued that the Customs and Border Protection agency “can't absorb this unplanned increase. They are right this minute pulling out all the stops to hire before October another 760 Border Patrol agents as well as 250 mission support staff to ensure that agents are out patrolling and not sitting behind desks. This is not the time to burden the recruitment system with unrequested new agents, not to mention to impose unfunded costs for their vehicles and facilities and ID support.”

Rep. Price also criticized the reductions that Lewis proposed in his amendment. Price noted that the bill already contained a figure for management support that was more than 10% below that requested by the Obama Administration's. He then argued that further reductions “would undermine key efforts to improve information security and reduce risks at the Department's data centers. So cutting more funds now means less core support for Department operations, less oversight, more waste, and an even longer road to getting the Department of Homeland Security the American taxpayers deserve.”

The amendment passed by a vote of 375-55. One hundred and ninety-eight Democrats joined all one hundred and seventy-seven Republicans and voted “aye”. Fifty-five other Democrats, a majority of whom are among the most progressive Members of the House, voted “nay”. As a result, $34 million was added to H.R. 2892 for the Customs and Border Protection agency and for 200 additional Border Patrol agents, and reductions were made in a number of departmental management and administrative support positions.

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