WASHINGTON – The House rejected an effort by New York-area lawmakers early Friday to redirect security dollars to urban areas considered most at risk of terror attacks.
Following a debate that continued past midnight, the House voted 237-171 to defeat an amendment by Rep. John Sweeney (search), R-N.Y., that would have shifted money from a nationwide security program to one that focuses on cities considered the likeliest terrorist targets.
The proposal underscored how the battle over security spending is more often one between regions than political parties. Republicans opposed Sweeney's plan by a 2-1 margin and a slight majority of Democrats favored it, with their votes largely reflecting whether they represented urban or rural areas.
"I don't want to get sidetracked as we seem to be doing, pitting region against region," said Rep. Harold Rogers (search), R-Ky., chairman of the subcommittee that has oversight over homeland security.
"We attempted to be fair to everyone," Rogers said. "We don't have all the money in the world. ... We've got a whole country to deal with here."
Sweeney's measure would have taken homeland security money away from rural areas and redirected it to the urban areas program, which currently distributes funds to 50 cities based on risk assessments by the Department of Homeland Security (search).
New York and New Jersey lawmakers took turns trying to convince their colleagues that homeland security funding should be shifted toward large urban areas.
"It's not a fight for dollars, it's a fight for survival," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
The debate centered around a 2005 budget bill for the Homeland Security Department.
Sweeney proposed shifting $446 million next year to a program that distributes money for emergency responders to cities considered the likeliest targets of future terrorist attacks.
The extra money would bring that program's 2005 total to nearly $1.5 billion -- double the amount it is receiving this year.
The funds would come from another program for emergency workers nationwide, including small communities. The transfer would shrink that program to about $800 million next year -- half its 2004 total.
The amendment was offered to a measure providing $32 billion for the Homeland Security Department for next year. The Senate's version of the legislation has $1.2 billion for urban areas.
After the vote, Sweeney said he would continue to seek to change the spending formula in a separate bill working its way through the House.