Wednesday June 1st, 2016 3:40AM

Lawmakers barter, trade, and compromise on spending bills

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - The House is cutting back armed air marshals but increasing funding to deal with a surge in unaccompanied immigrant children. It's boosting funding for gun background checks and resisting tea party cuts to economic development programs. Military readiness is taking a hit to pay for more ships and airplanes. <br /> <br /> It's trade-off time on Capitol Hill. <br /> <br /> As Congress stands at an impasse on most major issues, it is waist deep in annual spending bills that offer lawmakers secondary opportunities to make policy. <br /> <br /> But with agency budgets frozen on average, in order to add money for procurement of Coast Guard ships or to ease a backlog of unprocessed rape kits, the money has to come from a program that somebody else treasures. <br /> <br /> ``You have to rob Peter's pocket to pay Paul,'' Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., said. ``For example, they're willing to add money for the (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) for guns but they want to take it out of the National Science Foundation salaries. That's tough for me. I've got the National Science Foundation in my district.'' <br /> <br /> Moran was referring to an amendment to a spending bill on the House floor for the departments of Justice and Commerce and federal science programs. The amendment by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., would direct $19.5 million more to the NICS budget and came less than a week after a troubled young man killed six people near the University of California, Santa Barbara. The amendment was adopted by a 260-145 vote Thursday evening. <br /> <br /> Thursday's moves came a day after a House Appropriations subcommittee approved a $39 billion measure for the Department of Homeland Security. The measure essentially represents a budget freeze, which meant something had to get whacked to finance the $77 million the panel added to President Barack Obama's $868 million request to care for immigrant children who make their way across U.S. borders without their parents. <br /> <br /> The number of children found trying to cross the Mexican border without parents has skyrocketed in recent years, with an estimated 60,000 or more unaccompanied children coming into custody this year an almost 10-fold increase since 2011. <br /> <br /> Many of the children, who often land in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, have fled their home countries because of widespread gang and drug cartel violence. In many cases, the children have at least one parent or other relatives living in the United States, and the government often reunites children caught at the border with parents or relatives living in the U.S. illegally. <br /> <br /> Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told lawmakers Thursday that the spike in unaccompanied minors found at the border is a direct result of deteriorating conditions in Central American countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. <br /> <br /> ``It is being driven largely by the circumstances in those countries, in those Central American countries,'' Johnson told the House Judiciary Committee. ``The levels of violence, the levels of poverty.'' <br /> <br /> To pay for additional money to cope with the crisis of immigrant children, lawmakers had to cut elsewhere. <br /> <br /> Enter the federal air marshals, the armed agents who provide protection on an unknown number of flights. The government employed just a handful before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and now employs thousands, though the exact number is secret. But they're increasingly seen as one layer and an expensive one in an increasingly sophisticated web of protections for air travelers. <br /> <br /> New marshals were hired in droves after 9/11, but other layers of protection including reinforced cockpit doors and more sophisticated risk-based technology and screening procedures mean that fewer air marshals are needed. So the House panel cut the marshals budget by $208 million, more than one-fourth. <br /> <br /> ``It is an expensive mode of defense,'' Rep. David Price, D-N.C., said. ``The level can safely be brought down given the other protections we've put in place. The hardened cockpit door, lots of things that have meant that the air marshals are just one facet of a whole array of defenses.'' <br /> <br /> Also Thursday, House Republicans released a $570 billion Pentagon spending bill packed with its own set of trade-offs. The measure protected the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and EA-18 ``Growler'' attack aircraft from cuts but hit operations and maintenance accounts responsible for military readiness by $1.4 billion. <br />
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 1 year ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 1 year ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
Big Trump checks to vets groups sent on day of media report
More than a dozen big checks flowed out of New York last week, bound for veterans' charities from Donald Trump
9:21PM ( 6 hours ago )
Obama urges public to get ready for hurricane season
President Barack Obama is urging the public to prepare for the coming hurricane season and warning against what he says is a growing "complacency" when it comes to dangerous weather
6:07PM ( 9 hours ago )
Amid shouts of 'shame,' House GOP defeats gay rights measure
Democrats shouted "shame," but House Republicans switched their votes and defeated a measure to protect gay rights
8:03PM ( 1 week ago )
CDC director Freiden warns GOP Zika bill is inadequate
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday that a House GOP measure to combat the Zika virus is inadequate to deal with the swelling threat to public health
7:36PM ( 1 week ago )
Trump unveils list of his top picks for Supreme Court
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, released Wednesday a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House.
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )