Senate Democrats yesterday challenged President Bush’s decision to hire 210 new Border Patrol agents for next fiscal year, saying he reneged on a promise to add 2,000 agents when he signed the intelligence overhaul bill in December.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the Bush proposal, submitted as part of the Homeland Security Department’s $41.1 billion budget, “ignores the stark reality of the resources needed to secure the homeland.”
At a meeting of the Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, Mr. Byrd said the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act signed Dec. 6 by Mr. Bush authorized the hiring of 2,000 new agents in each of the next five years, and in a letter that day to Congress, the president called the bill “an important step in strengthening our immigration laws by . . . increasing the number of Border Patrol agents.”
Democrats have made the Border Patrol funding an issue in the past month, arguing that it shows that the president’s priorities are misplaced—both on border security and on the broader issue of immigration reform.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, also has been “disappointed” in the president’s decision not to fund 2,000 new agents. He asked Mr. Bush in a letter last month to fully fund the increases authorized in the bill.
The letter was signed by all five House Republican leaders on the intelligence bill: Mr. Sensenbrenner and Reps. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois; Duncan Hunter and David Dreier of California; and Peter Hoekstra of Michigan.