Authorizing $40 billion for the Homeland Security Department for fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1684)/On passage
house Roll Call 318 May 09, 2007
This was the final vote on legislation authorizing $40 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for fiscal 2008.
The bill would authorize $300 million between fiscal 2008 and 2010 for grants to states to prevent terrorists or other individuals from fraudulently obtaining and using state-issued identification cards and to develop more secure state-issued documents. The measure would require the agency to conduct a comprehensive homeland security review. Furthermore, it would eliminate the department's authority to establish a unique personnel management system that prevents employees from being covered by workplace laws afforded to other federal workers.
The last provision was the most controversial, and President Bush threatened to veto the legislation over its inclusion. Republicans said that DHS's personnel system, unique in the federal government, was necessary to give the executive branch the necessary "flexibilities" to manage the country's security. Democrats said that the system, which as been held up in federal court since the department's creation several years ago, only undermined worker morale and was an unnecessary elimination of the rights normally afforded federal workers.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the bill contained "strong accountability measures aimed at strengthening and streamlining management of the Department of Homeland Security, which has struggled with its management challenges; and it includes provisions to improve information sharing, to enhance bioterrorism preparedness and to eliminate the Department's authority to establish its own personnel management system."
Many Republicans supported the bill until the inclusion of what's known as the manager's amendment, a package of changes that modified the bill after it passed out of the Homeland Security Committee (see Roll Call 314).
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) said although she was "cynical about the campaign promises made by the other side to implement the remaining 9/11 Commission reforms, I never dreamed that the American people would be betrayed the way I believe they are today."
She said the majority of lawmakers on the Homeland Security Committee "rolled over and played dead, letting their other committee counterparts in the House pick this bill clean of many good security measures in a manager's amendment that will strip them out and gut the bill."
Among the provisions stripped from the original bill when the House adopted the manager's amendment was language that would have required employers at critical infrastructure sites to verify Social Security numbers of their employees before hiring them.
"Do you know why constituents all around the Nation should be outraged?" Brown-Waite asked. "Because 2 years ago, a power plant in Florida unknowingly had a painting contractor who hired illegal aliens. Several of them had pending criminal charges and had been deported multiple times."
As a fusion of many agencies previously under the oversight of multiple committees and subcommittees in the House, the Department of Homeland Security has been plagued by bureaucratic turf wars since its inception - critics say to the detriment of the department and Congress' stated goal in its creation: national security. It is those influences to which Brown-Waite referred.
Despite protests from many Republicans, the legislation passed easily. Seventy-three Republicans joined all but two Democrats in voting for the bill. Thus, on a final vote of 296 to 126, the House passed legislation authorizing $40 billion for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal 2008, including provisions that would prevent the agency from implementing a personnel system that would deny its workers the civil service protections afforded to other federal employees.
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