Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, Mar. 18
The Senate voted yesterday to provide funds for 2,000 new Border Patrol agents in next year’s budget as called for in the intelligence overhaul bill, going against President Bush’s request for 210 agents.
The amendment to the budget passed by unanimous consent and indicates a willingness to challenge Mr. Bush on immigration security. Although the amendment does not bind appropriators, who will produce the final spending bills, senators now have taken a public position on the matter.
“Unfortunately, the president’s budget this year only provides funding for 210 agents. This amendment allows Congress to fulfill its commitment,” said Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, who sponsored the amendment with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican.
“Our Border Patrol agents are critical in protecting not only our borders from illegal immigration, but our homeland from terrorism,” Mrs. Hutchison said.
The amendment pays for the increases by reducing the foreign operations section of the budget by $352 million.
Last year’s intelligence bill sought an additional 10,000 Border Patrol agents over five years. It also called for 8,000 new detention beds and 800 interior investigators. Mr. Bush included funding for 1,920 beds and 143 investigators.
The border-security funding issue has given Republicans and Democrats a rare moment of unity on the budget and on immigration issues.