Senate nixes NY C terror funds

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday refused to restore $750 million in anti-terrorism funds that have been taken away from New York City and Washington and shifted to smaller cities thought to be at lower risk of attack.

By a vote of 53-47, the Senate killed an amendment by New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton and others, who protested the 40 percent funding reduction for New York this year and a 43 percent cut for Washington.

“New York City and Washington, D.C. remain at the top of any (threat) intelligence we get, but they were given drastic reductions,” Clinton complained.

Both cities are Democratic strongholds.

Had Clinton’s amendment been embraced by the Republican-controlled Senate, federal grants for protecting bridges, monuments and other possible targets of attack in New York and Washington would have been restored next year to their 2005 levels.

Sen. Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, acknowledged that he was “surprised and quite shocked” when he heard of the security funding cuts for the two cities that were attacked on September 11, 2001.

But he said adding $750 million to a $32.8 billion domestic security bill for fiscal 2007 would “bust the budget.”

Judd also said that in recent years, $14.6 billion had been put “into the pipeline” for high-risk cities and about $8 billion was unused.

Last month the House of Representatives voted to refuse to give the $750 million back to New York and Washington, D.C.

Rural areas have been pitted against major population centers in competing for federal domestic security dollars.

Sen. Charles Schumer, also a New York Democrat, chastised the Department of Homeland Security’s list of possible terrorist targets that includes a petting zoo and flea market in less populous areas.

“I’ve been to petting zoos when I was a kid and I took my children to petting zoos and I never saw a terrorist hiding behind one of the sheep in Little Bo Peep’s flock,” Schumer said.

The Senate also defeated, 50-50, an attempt by Schumer to add $300 million for beefing up mass transit security. Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, also failed to increase rail security funding by $1.1 billion.

© 2006 Reuters