U.S. Rep. Ron Barber worked with his House colleagues today to approve next year's funding for the Department of Homeland Security -- but he warned that continued failure to address sequestration will harm border security efforts.
Barber today joined a bipartisan majority in the House in voting 245-to 182 to approve a $38.993 billion budget for DHS for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1. That is slightly lower than the $39.606 billion appropriated for DHS last year.
The bill contains $10.6 billion for Customs and Border Protection. That provides for 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 22,800 Customs officers -- both higher than this year's levels.
But the bill does not address sequestration, the indiscriminate, across-the-board spending cuts imposed three months ago. Because of the $600 million in cuts in the final seven months of this fiscal year, overtime has been reduced for Border Patrol agents -- reductions that Barber has aggressively opposed.
Earlier this week, Barber urged House leaders to ensure that this year's sequestration-forced budget cuts do not affect staffing levels within the Border Patrol or the pay of its agents.
Barber's statement on today's House passage of the DHS appropriations bill:
"I am pleased the House worked to pass this bipartisan legislation to protect our nation and secure our borders. This bill provides critical funding for agents and technology along the Southwest border, as well as investments in public safety from support for our first responders to strengthening our cyber networks.
"While I strongly support this funding for our national security, I am disappointed that Congress continues to fail to address the sequestration cuts that continue to harm our ability to secure our borders"
"Cuts to overtime may seem minor -- but for the men and women who work in the isolated areas of the Southwest deserts, border security is not a 9-to-5 job. Because agents often are assigned to work miles from their duty stations, cutting overtime means less time in the field patrolling the border. And that creates windows of opportunity for criminals to enter our country and endanger my constituents and all Americans.
"I continue to urge my colleagues to work on a bipartisan solution to cut our deficit in a reasonable way -- by looking for waste, duplication and unnecessary spending. Embedding these sequestration cuts in another year's budget will further undermine our work to secure the borders."