- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

The Justice Department cannot deliver $3.5 billion to assist local first-responders in future terrorist attacks because Congress failed to provide funding, according to an internal memo.
President Bush asked Congress to fund grants for police, fire and other emergency services in his budget, but the Senate failed to pass his or its own version of the budget.
Gridlock over spending bills forced the House and Senate to pass a continuing resolution that caps spending at its current level until they return next year.
"At this point, we can only speculate on the availability of resources for the balance of the fiscal year," said Deborah J. Daniels, assistant attorney general, in a memo to staff.
"We regret the inconvenience these restrictions on our ability to award funds may cause some of our grantees during this interim period," Miss Daniels said.
Republicans said funding was snagged by Democrats, who controlled the Senate, but the problem will be solved when Republicans take back control in January.
"The Senate Democratic leadership failed to fund first-responders through our appropriations process," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for Incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
"When Congress returns with a new Republican Senate majority, we will pass funding for first-responders by the president's State of the Union address," Mr. Bonjean said. The historic speeches are given at the end of January.
Cities wanted the money for planing, training, equipment and first-response exercises as part of a state-by-state coordinated response plan.
"Cities have really risen to the occasion and stretched their financial and human resources," said Cameron Whitman, director for policy and federal relations for the National League of Cities.
The league is holding its annual convention in Salt Lake City, where city officials are grappling with increased responsibilities since the September 11 attacks.
"What they are saying to me is that they are already so stretched, when police officers retire they can't afford to fill positions. They are letting personnel go, and some cities are having to consider increasing taxes to deliver services," she said.
"Homeland security was a great surprise to everyone, but we got a commitment from the president the federal government was going to help us to the tune of $3.5 billion. It's been 14 months and nothing has happened," she said.
A Justice Department official said Mr. Bush is committed to funding emergency first-responders.
"He showed this commitment by requesting $3.5 billion to assist the first-responder community in the fiscal year 2003 budget," the official said.
"In the past 12 months, the Office of Justice Programs have provided almost $1 billion for first-responders," the official said.
The office of Rep. David Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, released a statement criticizing the Bush administration for not making the money available.
The statement said the "revelation follows a pattern of Bush holding highly trumpeted photo-ops with first-responders and then consequently rejecting money for them."
The Justice Department official called the statement "disingenuous."
"They should know better than others the effect continuing resolutions, instead of passing a full-term funding bill, has on the ability of government to function properly," he said.

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