Senate Shuns Attempt To Add Agents

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, July 15

The Senate voted yesterday against fulfilling its pledge from last year to hire 2,000 more Border Patrol agents and fund 8,000 new detention beds for illegal aliens in fiscal 2006, as some potential presidential candidates weighed in on border security and illegal immigration.

The intelligence overhaul bill that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in December called for 2,000 new agents and 8,000 new detention beds every year for the next five years in order to meet a threat posed by illegal aliens.

Yesterday’s votes were on amendments to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill, which funds only 1,000 more agents and 2,240 more detention beds in fiscal 2006.

Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, had called for another 1,000 agents, and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, called for 5,760 more beds in order to meet the goals set by last year’s bill, with both increases being paid for by reducing grants to state and local governments.

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But Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said the amendments would sap funds from local law enforcement.

“That’s the problem here. It’s not in strengthening the borders. It’s in taking away money from the people every day who defend us and, since 9/11, have new duties,” he said.

Both amendments failed—Mr. Ensign’s by a 60-38 vote, and Mr. McCain’s 56-42. Later in the evening, the overall Homeland Security bill passed 96-1, with Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, voting against it.

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