This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) that would increase by $10 million funding for a border security program that helped residents along the U.S.-Mexico border to communicate via cell phone with the Border Patrol. The amendment also would cut $10 million from the Secretary of Homeland Security’s administrative expenses account. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Homeland Security Department programs.
Poe urged support for his amendment: “On March 27, 2010, rancher Bob Krentz of Arizona was murdered 20 miles north of the border from Mexico in an isolated area of Arizona. The lack of communications capability made Krentz more vulnerable than he would have been otherwise and complicated the search for the assailants. His wife believes it was in a cell phone dead zone where he was killed and that he was trying to call for help, but his cell phone would not work….These dead zones are so common that often times border ranchers in Arizona and Texas rely on shortwave radios to communicate and call for help when they are in trouble or they see illegal crossings into their property. The inability of the U.S. government to secure the U.S.-Mexico border creates public safety hazards for residents of border areas and the law enforcement agents who patrol them. Many border areas are rural and lack wireless communication capabilities like phone service, and they exacerbate the border-related public safety concern.”
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) opposed the amendment: “…This proposal would further create cuts to the Department's management functions below what is responsible for the Nation's security. The committee has already cut the Department's headquarters and management at historic levels….The Department must still have robust funding to manage the many organizations under its authority. The Department was created from nearly two dozen agencies and still faces challenges in achieving the unified homeland security enterprise.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 327-93. Voting “yea” were 205 Republicans and 122 Democrats. 64 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 29 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would increase by $10 million funding for a border security program that helped residents along the U.S.-Mexico border to communicate via cell phone with the Border Patrol--but would cut $10 million from the Secretary of Homeland Security’s administrative expenses account. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would need to pass the Senate as well. Since it had not passed the Senate, funding for the Homeland Security Secretary’s administrative expenses account remained unchanged for the time being. In addition, no funding was immediately allocated for a new cell phone communication program intended to improve border security.