Congress last night passed a giant new spending bill that undermines current plans for a U.S.-Mexico border fence, allowing the Homeland Security Department to build a single-tier barrier rather than the two-tier version that has worked in California.
The spending bill, written by Democrats and passed 253-154 with mostly their votes, surrenders to President Bush’s budget demands, meeting his spending limit with a $515 billion bill to fund most of the federal government and setting up votes to pay for the Iraq war. But Democrats reached his goal in part by slashing his defense and foreign-aid priorities to pay for added domestic spending.
The concessions promise to end a months-long budget standoff before Congress adjourns for the year and takes a Christmas break scheduled to start by Friday. In a rare two-step maneuver, the House first voted 253-154 to approve the bill to fund most of the civilian Cabinet agencies, and then voted 206-201 to add about $30 billion for Afghanistan war-spending to the measure.
But the measures did not pass before House Republicans blasted the changes to the border fence.
“The fact that this was buried in a bloated, 3,500-page omnibus speaks volumes about the Democrats’ unserious approach on border security and illegal immigration,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “Gutting the Secure Fence Act will make our borders less secure, but it’s consistent with the pattern of behavior we’ve seen all year from this majority.”
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