This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Duncan (R-TN) to H.R. 2892, the bill providing funding for the Department of Homeland Security for the 2010 fiscal year. The Duncan Amendment would have reduced the amount in the bill for federal air marshals by $41 million, back to its fiscal year 2009 level of $819 million. Duncan cited a statement by a former senior member of the House Appropriations Committee that “we had done all we needed to do on airplane security when we secured the cockpit doors.” He also cited a Wall Street Journal editorial that read:“(A)ny bill with the word ‘security’ should get double the public scrutiny . . . lest all kinds of bad legislation become law under the phony guise of fighting terrorism.''
Duncan also noted that: “(A)ir marshals arrest an average of a little over four people each year. Even after my amendment, they would still be getting about $200 million per arrest.” Duncan called the Federal Air Marshall Service “a needless, useless agency” and argued that “what the Transportation Security Administration is doing at the airports, what all the other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are doing, what private companies are doing on security and all the many other things that are done on this bill on aviation security are more than enough.” He concluded by describing his amendment as “very minimal fiscal conservatism”, and by noting that “even if my amendment were to pass, (the Federal Air Marshall Service) would be getting an almost 60 percent increase since 2003, more than double the rate of inflation since that time . . . And if we can't do that, then really we can't do anything that is truly fiscally conservative in this Congress.”
Rep. Price (D-NC), the chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, who was managing H.R. 2892, opposed the amendment. However, he said that his subcommittee was addressing some of the concerns that Duncan raised and is doing a long-term assessment of air marshal staffing needs. Price added that: “(T)his is not something we should go on funding indefinitely without assessment or analysis”, but that he did not agree that Congress should “simply flat-fund” the Air Marshall Service at its current level. Price expressed concern that the reduction proposed in the amendment would create the possibility “that air marshals may not be on all flights during some high-consequence events, such as the 2010 Olympics or national special security events.” Price also argued that the proposed reduction “would limit the air marshals' ability to rapidly respond to unanticipated events as they did in the past, such as the U.K. liquid explosives threat, evacuation of U.S. citizens from Lebanon, or in response to hurricanes like Ike and Katrina.”
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 134-294. One hundred and twenty-four Republicans and ten Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-two Democrats and fifty-two Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the amount provided for air marshals in H.R. 2892 for the 20210 fiscal year remained at $860 million.