21 June 2004

House Rejects Extra Security Aid to High-Risk Cities

House Rejects Extra Security Aid to High-Risk Cities: "

The New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 18 - In a blow to the New York metropolitan region's antiterrorism efforts, the House rejected a move Friday to provide nearly $500 million to pay for security initiatives in cities believed to be at greatest risk of attack.

By a vote of 237 to 171 that largely split lawmakers along regional lines, the House rejected an amendment that sought to shift $446 million from a nationwide antiterrorism program to one specifically aimed at New York City and other high-risk cities.

The action brought swift condemnation from New York officials, who have long complained that the federal government gives out millions of dollars in security money to every state, regardless of its vulnerability, in pork-barrel fashion.

The harshest criticism came from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican who announced that New York City was canceling its membership in the National Association of Counties to protest the group's opposition to the measure.

'We are not getting our fair share of Homeland Security money,' Mr. Bloomberg said. 'To say it's a disgrace is being too charitable.'

'The fact of the matter is that when you catch a terrorist with a map in their pocket, the map is of New York City,' the mayor said. In Albany, Gov. George E. Pataki, also a Republican, expressed his disappointment with the vote, noting that New York was far more vulnerable to a terrorist attack than other parts of the country.

'To allocate funding across the board to states as opposed to on a threat-based analysis is wrong,' Mr. Pataki told reporters.

The battle over money for high-risk cities now moves to the Senate, where members of both parties have been more evenhanded in determining how aid is distributed.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, did not rule out offering an amendment seeking additional money for high-risk cities when the matter comes to the floor in the Senate.

'I'm going to continue to explore every legislative option we have in order to provide an adequate level of funding for New York's security needs,' Mrs. Clinton said.

The measure defeated in the House was advanced by a group of New York lawmakers who spent days trying to round up support. Its two chief sponsors were Representative John E. Sweeney, a Republican from the Albany area, and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat from Manhattan.

If the votes are any indication, the dispute is more complicated than a mere partisan fight. Seventy Republicans - many of them from large urbanized states like California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania- joined with 101 Democrats to support the measure. But 89 Democrats - many of them from heavily rural states - joined 147 Republicans to reject it.

The measure seeking the additional $446 million for high-risk cities was offered as an amendment to a bill that calls for providing $33 billion for the Homeland Security Department next year. The House later on Friday approved the overall $33 billion Homeland Security spending plan by an overwhelming 400 to 5.

The additional $446 million would have been squeezed out of roughly $1.2 billion set aside for emergency workers in communities across the nation, no matter their size or their vulnerability.

In all, the Homeland Security bill the House considered calls for providing slightly over $1 billion for cities believed to be at the greatest risk of an attack. The Senate version of the bill sets aside $1.2 billion for high-risk urban areas.

The issue is crucial to New York City officials. The city spends as much as $1 billion a year on antiterrorism measures, and the Bloomberg administration is seeking $400 million in federal security aid for the budget the mayor proposed for the fiscal year that begins in July.

In his comments on Friday, Mr. Bloomberg seized on the House vote as an opportunity to emphasize his concerns about the way Washington apportions security money.

He said 'the political pressures' in Congress had turned the allocation of security money into a pork-barrel program in which small states received far more dollars per person than those states at greater risk, like New York.

The mayor said that New York, for example, gets about $5.47 a person in antiterrorism financing, while Wyoming receives $38 a person and Vermont receives $31.

In rambling comments that reflected his frustration and dismay, Mr. Bloomberg also criticized officials from largely agricultural states who have argued that they, too, desperately need federal money to protect the nation's food supply.

'Everybody can always say, 'Well, we have security issues,' ' he said. 'You know, one guy said to me that, 'Yeah, the corn and soybean crops are our food supply and therefore this country needs a food supply, we've got to protect it.' You know, I've never seen a terrorist with a map of a cornfield in his pocket. Come on. Let's get serious to what this is about, why this money should be going to places like New York City.'"

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