- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The House yesterday added to the $81.3 billion supplemental defense spending bill a provision to tighten border security, a measure criticized by Mexico but praised by some lawmakers as a way to thwart terrorism.

House Republicans said the measure, which was attached to the spending bill by voice vote, would enhance national security by making it harder for terrorists to enter the country and therefore belongs in the war-spending package.

“American citizens have a right to know who is in their country,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican.

But Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat, said although she backs the package to support U.S. troops, the “anti-immigrant” bill is “a poison pill” and should not have been attached.

The border security measure would:

• Require states to verify they aren’t giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, or the federal government will not recognize that state’s licenses as valid identification.

• Give judges broader power to deport political asylum seekers suspected of terrorism.

• Allow construction of roads and barriers for border security without regard to environmental protections.

The House bill is supported by the White House but faces stiff opposition in the Senate, where lawmakers have concerns about several provisions. Senators who have been pushing comprehensive immigration reform see the House bill as a piecemeal approach.

Mexico has criticized the U.S. push to complete the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego. The bill would waive environmental hurdles.

The House had approved the border security measure as a stand-alone bill in February. But by attaching it to the emergency war-spending package, the House ensured the Senate will address it when House and Senate negotiators meet to write a final version of the legislation.

Most of the spending package is devoted to paying for combat and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Swift passage with bipartisan support is expected this week in the House. The Senate isn’t expected to craft its version until next month.

Combined with previously approved funds, the package — the fifth emergency spending plan before Congress since the September 11 terrorist attacks — would drive the totals spent so far on Iraq, Afghanistan and operations against terrorists worldwide beyond $300 billion for fighting, aid to allies and reconstruction assistance.

As debate began yesterday, Democrats offered a slew of amendments, most of which were rejected, and used the opportunity to denounce the war in Iraq and the Bush administration’s post-invasion strategy.

“I say the war was wrong, unholy and the administration has brought death, destruction, chaos and corruption to Iraq,” said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat.

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, offered an amendment that would require Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to lay out for Congress a “strategy of success” for Iraq, including goals and a timetable for achieving them. The amendment was adopted by voice vote.

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