fter negotiations between conservative and moderate Republicans broke down over new budget rules and spending limits, House Republican leaders were forced to pull the $2.8 trillion fiscal year 2007 budget resolution (H Con Res 376) off the floor. Although the leaders said that they would attempt to hold a vote on the nonbinding resolution after lawmakers return from a two-week recess, the intraparty fighting that held up the vote could mean that Congress will not pass a budget resolution this year.
The budget resolution serves as a fiscal blueprint that sets broad goals and specific spending levels for the coming fiscal year. It does not fund the federal government, but it guides the actions of appropriators who come up with the final budget each year. Budget resolutions outline multiyear spending and revenue goals and make deficit projections. The resolution does not require the president's signature.
When the resolution was considered by the House Budget Committee, lawmakers recommended that $900 million in funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program be restored. This funding level represents a $484 million increase over current funding levels and a $900 million increase over the Bush administration's proposed budget, which slated the program for elimination.
This funding level is similar to the Senate version of the budget resolution (S Con Res 83), which was approved on March 15. During consideration on the Senate floor, Senators approved an amendment offered by Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minnesota) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) that would restore $900 million in funding to the Byrne JAG Program. This amendment was strongly supported by the IACP.
Also approved was an amendment offered by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut), who serve as chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. It would provide an additional $986 million in critical homeland security funding, including restoring funding to the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP) to last year's level ($400 million). The president has proposed eliminating the program. It also would increase funding for the State Homeland Security Grant (SHSG) program to $700 million, an increase of $150 million over last years funding. It is important to note that these funding increases are nonbinding. While the Senate and the House Budget Committee have now gone on record supporting the increased funding levels, it does not guarantee that appropriators will follow the recommendations.
The appropriations process begins when House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees hold hearings on fiscal year 2007 appropriations. Then the subcommittees and the full appropriations committees will mark up the individual fiscal year 2007 funding bills before they go to the House and Senate floors. Because this is an election year, it is also very possible that lawmakers will adjourn early without completing the appropriations process, instead funding the government through a series of continuing resolutions.
House Subcommittee Passes Bill to Eliminate Color-Coded Threat System
On March 29, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment passed a bill that would eliminate the color-coded terrorism threat warning system and authorize intelligence programs at the Department of Homeland Security. The legislation combines four bills (H.R. 5001, H.R. 5002, H.R. 5003, and H.R. 5004) into one bill. All were sponsored by Subcommittee Chair Rob Simmons (R-Connecticut) and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-California).
The bill would require that the current color-coded threat system be replaced with more specific warnings, targeted to a region or sector of the economy. It would also require that recommendations for action in response be included.
The current system has been criticized repeatedly for its lack of specificity, although its most recent deployments have been more targeted.
In addition, the bill would authorize the newly created Office of Intelligence and Analysis and assign it specific responsibilities. It would require the office to come up with a continuity-of-operations plan in the event of a disaster, and authorize an assistant secretary position for protection of infrastructure.
The bill would also create a state, local, regional, and tribal fusion center initiative to coordinate homeland security information sharing with the federal government. It would also establish a fellows program to bring state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials to the department to help them become familiar with its operations.
The legislation could be folded into the Department of Homeland Security fiscal year 2007 authorization bill, but Simmons prefers to move it independently. It is unclear whether Homeland Security Chair-man Peter King (R-New York) plans to pass an authorization bill for fiscal year 2007. ■