Despite all the recent hoopla over a supposed terrorist threat
to the New York subway systems, Congress is poised to slash homeland security grants accross the board. The new federal plan seems to be to close our eyes and pray that they flypaper theory actually works out.
Connecticut is one of the big losers in Congress' conference report for 2006 Department of Homeland Security funding, losing two-thirds of its grant money.
The Connecticut Post's editorial board is pissed.
Just where is our U.S. Congress? Obviously, members of the House and Senate do not share the thinking of most Americans when it comes to homeland security.
How else can one explain the reason for Congress seriously considering a conference report that would chop guaranteed federal homeland security funding below what President Bush and even the House and Senate originally recommended?
For Connecticut, homeland security grants would be cut by two-thirds to $7.13 million, compared to the $21 million the state is receiving this fiscal year.
Overall, the conference report calls for drastic cuts in the homeland security grant program from $1.1 billion to $550 million. Furthermore, it forces states to compete for some funding "based on risk."
Has Congress not learned the response lessons taught by Hurricane Katrina which require better preparation for our first responders, not making them have to do more with less?
Have the members of Congress weakened their resolve in the war on terrorism and their pledge to protect vulnerable locales and the American people from terrorist attacks?
Connecticut is a transportation hub, linking together the New York and Boston metropolitican areas by rail, road, and ferry. Without federal homeland security funding, the state can't hope to protect such a large number of soft targets.
Diane Farrell, the Democratic challenger for the seat in Congress held by Chris Shays, has a blistering press release out taking the Fairfield County Republican to task for failing to protect that needed funding.
"Since 9-11, Chris Shays and the Republicans who control Congress have paid lip service to Homeland Security and funding for first responders. This latest Republican scheme to eviscerate funding for local first responders is proof positive that the majority party has no intention of keeping its promise to the American people to make us safer," said Farrell. "In the wake of 9-11, Katrina, Rita, the war on terror, it is unfathomable that Chris Shays and his colleagues would continually seek to cut funding for the brave men and women working on the front lines to protect, aid and comfort the American people in times of need."
"Chris Shays has chosen to remain silent on this latest attempt to cut Homeland Security funding, which tells me he is either perfectly content to once again go along with his Republican colleagues or he just doesn't get it. I hope for the sake of the residents of Connecticut and the rest of the nation that I am wrong. Unfortunately, Chris' track record would suggest otherwise," added Farrell.
Farrell pointed out that in 2003, Shays voted against providing $3.5 billion for homeland security grants for first responders and $90 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health of Sep. 11, 2001 first responders. That same year, Shays also voted against providing the highest levels of funding for veterans' medical care and President Bush's full request for Homeland Security funding. In 2004, Shays voted against a plan to rescind a portion of the tax cut for people earning more than $1 million a year in order to provide $3 billion in funding for Homeland Security. He voted against a similar measure in 2003 that would have provided $1 billion in funding for Homeland Security.
"Chris Shays and the Republicans who control Congress seem more concerned with providing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans than they are with protecting the American people," said Farrell. "The time has come for Chris Shays and the Republicans in Congress to straighten out their priorities and do the right thing for the American people. If they won't, they better hope that the worst repercussions of their inaction come when voters go to the polls next year, and not when another disaster like Hurricane Katrina, or worse, hits the United States."
It's over a year before the elections, but Farrell is already throwing fire up here in Connecticut. Looks like the next year is shaping up to be a very interesting one. Here's hoping that Fairfield County's voters can get behind a "Fighting Dem"; lord knows we haven't seen one in a very, very long time.