This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) that would allow small and midsized American cities to receive federal funding from the Urban Area Security Initiative. The Urban Area Security Initiative provides federal funding to urban areas for measures that help local governments prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Homeland Security Department programs.
Specifically, a provision of the underlying Homeland Security bill only allowed the 10 biggest American cities to receive federal funding under the Urban Area Security Initiative. Clarke’s amendment would eliminate that provision.
Clarke urged support for his amendment: “…What this amendment does is remove the restriction that the Urban Areas Security Initiative funding should be restricted to the top 10 urban areas by risk. You see, there are other metropolitan areas in this country that I believe are at similar or even higher risk of terrorist attack or damage through any other type of catastrophe. The metro Detroit area is one of those. That area, the area that I represent, has the busiest border crossing in all of North America and has an international airport. It has a huge metropolitan population center. It has the world headquarters of General Motors. We are at high risk of an attack; but yet right now, according to the Homeland Security risk metrics, we are not rated in the top 10. We should be eligible for this funding, as well as other metropolitan areas.”
Rep. John Carter (R-TX) opposed the amendment: “…The bill limits Urban Area Security Initiative grants to the top 10 highest cities…. this puts scarce dollars to where they are needed most. That means that cities like New York are funded at significantly higher levels than other cities because they are the highest-rent urban areas. I don't think anyone here can argue with that. This does not mean lower-risk areas will lose all funding. It just means that funds will come from other programs such as State homeland grants that are risk and formula based. I strongly urge my colleagues to support fiscal discipline by aligning funding with the areas of highest risk and vote `no' on this amendment.”
A number of Democrats who represented large cities—and whose congressional districts would stand to lose federal funding if Clarke’s proposal were enacted--opposed this amendment. The Gannett Washington Bureau’s Brian Tumulty reported:
“Downstate [NY] lawmakers were troubled that the House passed an amendment to remove a requirement that eligibility for urban-area security grants be confined to the 10 metropolitan areas facing the greatest threat of a terrorist attack. Removing that requirement would allow other cities to compete for funding.
U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-Bronx, said the grant program was never intended to allow cities facing minimal terrorist threats ‘to bring home some money under the guise of homeland security.’”
The House agreed to Clarke’s amendment by a vote of 273-150. Voting “yea” were 143 Republicans and 130 Democrats. 58 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 92 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would allow small and midsized American cities to receive federal funding from the Urban Area Security Initiative. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would need to pass the Senate as well. When this vote occurred, it was unclear whether the Senate would agree to such an amendment.