House passes homeland security budget bill

The bill passed on partisan lines, unusual for homeland security questions.

The GOP-controlled House passed a $46 billion measure Thursday funding the Homeland Security Department, including more than $5 billion in disaster relief spending that complies with a budget agreement last summer opposed by tea party conservatives.

The 234-182 vote was unusually partisan. Homeland security programs traditionally have enjoyed widespread support, but the Obama administration issued a veto threat against the bill in a protest over unrelated budget cuts proposed by Republicans in excess of last summer's budget and debt deal.

Republican conservatives lost a battle this spring with top members of the Appropriations panel over $5 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster money for hurricane, flood and tornado victims added to the budget as called for in the budget deal.

The measure is the fourth of the 12 annual agency spending bills to pass the House this year. The Senate has yet to begin debate on the measures but may turn to the homeland security bill later this summer.

Republicans engineered increases in border and immigration enforcement efforts but hit the often-unpopular Transportation Security Administration with a slight decrease. Overall, though, the bill generally tracks President Barack Obama's request.

The measure also increases spending for grants popular with state and local governments for first responders like fire and police departments.

The bill also denies Obama's request to increase TSA security fees added to the cost of airline tickets. Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved increasing the fee on a nonstop round-trip flight from $5 to $10. Fees on a one-way, nonstop ticket would increase from $2.50 to $5. Passengers who change planes to reach their destinations would continue to pay $5 each way.

The Senate move was tried last year but failed and is sure to fail again in an election year.

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