Congress has apparently misinterpreted the call to shrink the federal government. While our Representatives and Senators have included over 9,000 earmarks in the omnibus spending bill under consideration today, and while they continue to add more and more federal spending, they have shrunk the border fence passed by the 109th Congress last year. It removes the requirements for specific construction and location, leaving the project in limbo (via Michelle Malkin and Memeorandum):
Congress last night passed a giant new spending bill that undermines current plans for a U.S.-Mexico border fence, allowing the Homeland Security Department to build a single-tier barrier rather than the two-tier version that has worked in California.
The spending bill, written by Democrats and passed 253-154 with mostly their votes, surrenders to President Bush's budget demands, meeting his spending limit with a $515 billion bill to fund most of the federal government and setting up votes to pay for the Iraq war. But Democrats reached his goal in part by slashing his defense and foreign-aid priorities to pay for added domestic spending.
The concessions promise to end a months-long budget standoff before Congress adjourns for the year and takes a Christmas break scheduled to start by Friday. In a rare two-step maneuver, the House first voted 253-154 to approve the bill to fund most of the civilian Cabinet agencies, and then voted 206-201 to add about $30 billion for Afghanistan war-spending to the measure. ...
The 2006 Secure Fence Act specifically called for "two layers of reinforced fencing" and listed five specific sections of border where it should be installed. The new spending bill removes the two-tier requirement and the list of locations.
This mostly came from the Democrats, although Kay Bailey Hutchison also contributed. She responded to landowners in Texas who resent the installation of the fence as an intrusion on their land. Her spokesperson also insinuated that Hutchison knows better than Duncan Hunter as to what will secure a Texas border, even though Hunter has shown how effective the double-barrier fence has been in San Diego.
Mostly, though, robbing the border fence allows the Democrats to pay back the White House for playing hardball on the budget. They resented his scolding over the budget-busting proposal the Democrats prepared earlier this month, and House Appropriations chair David Obey threatened to defund the administration's priorities -- as well as all of the earmarks. When Republican leadership mostly called his bluff (mostly) on the latter, Obey instead went after the fence.
It may make Democrats feel better, but they just handed the Republicans a very large bat for the 2008 Congressional elections. Polls have repeatedly shown that the electorate overwhelmingly wants the southern border secured. By deliberately undermining that process, the Democrats put a number of the seats they won in 2006 in primarily center-right districts at further risk. People were frustrated enough when all the 109th could do on immigration was pass that fence bill -- and they're not likely to respond well when the 110th's only action is to reverse course.