Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Congressional Republicans Vote to Cut Border Security Funding

Posted By on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Congressional Republicans, in their zeal to slash the federal budget (without cutting the military, Social Security or Medicare), have voted to cut back on border security:

With both chambers in recess until the week of Feb. 28, Senate Democrats are mounting a public relations blitz this week highlighting specific cuts in the House bill that may be unpopular with the public, such as funding for cancer research. Democrats are also seizing on some line-item cuts to paint Republicans as "schizophrenic" in their "indiscriminate budget cutting," a senior Democratic leadership aide said.

For instance, the bill would cut at least $272 million in border security and immigration enforcement, including fencing and surveillance technology. A Democratic analysis shows this would scale back the number of agents patrolling the Mexican border from 21,370 to 20,500.

"For gosh sakes, we've had everybody talking about secure the borders, secure the borders, secure the borders, and then instead of making some reasonable adjustments in checks we write to oil companies, they're cutting border security," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said on "Fox News Sunday."

That can't possibly sit well with Arizona Republicans. Details here.

TNR's Jonathan Chait notes:

A couple points here. First, Republicans almost surely made cuts like this (and others to things like cancer research) in the assumption they wouldn't come to pass. Democrats control the Senate and White House, there will be negotiations, so Republicans can make cuts they don't want to actually take place and still retain support from their base.

But second, this shows again how utterly at odds with reality the conservative view of the budget is. There just is not a lot of waste to be found. Republicans like to say they've just made a first step, but if the first step means weakening the government function they've been demanding to strengthen, then you have to wonder how many other steps there could be.

Most of what government does is either necessary, popular, or both. Now, people don't understand that — they think there are huge savings in foreign aid, welfare, and useless bureaucracy. Republicans can win power by appealing to popular misunderstandings of the budget, but actually implementing a program on the basis of a misunderstanding of reality is quite hard.