Washington The House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve the first bill to finance the new Homeland Security Department and shower $29.4 billion on local emergency workers, airport screeners and a new drive against bioterrorism.
Though they supported it unanimously, Democrats said the Republican-written measure would fall short of meeting the nation's needs for protecting ports, borders and airports.
For this they blamed the tax reductions President Bush and the GOP have shepherded through Congress over the past three years, absorbing money that could have gone to other needs.
"The majority party in Congress has decided that instead, their No. 1 and virtually their only priority is tax cuts," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis.
Republicans said the bill would continue the upgrades in domestic safety that began after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and said Democrats were never satisfied when it came to spending.
"A lot of people would want us to spend tons and tons of more money, and believe me if we thought it was useful to do so, we'd have no compunction against doing that," said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee, which wrote the bill.
The measure would finance the 22 agencies and more than 170,000 workers merged into a new Cabinet-level department by legislation enacted last November.
Until now, its component agencies were financed in several separate spending bills. The legislation considered Tuesday would provide $536 million, or 1.9 percent, more next year than what those agencies are getting in 2003.