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US Senator Lieberman Says He’ll Help NYC With Security Grants January 9, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–A top U.S. senator said Tuesday that in a matter of weeks his committee will finish a bill that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has waited years to see – changing the way the government doles anti-terror grants to big cities.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, told the mayor that he would work quickly to get a larger share of that grant money to the cities that need it most.

Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who aligns himself with the Democrats, said he hoped “that in the next few weeks, by the end of the month,” his committee will finish legislation revamping the homeland security formula.

Bloomberg testified before the committee that the current formula spreads anti-terror dollars across the country “like peanut butter.” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has made the same comparison.

Officials in New York and Washington were furious last year when the Department of Homeland Security chose to cut their grants by 40%. In New York’s case, that amounted to a loss of nearly $83 million.

Bloomberg’s lengthy testimony was similar to arguments he has made in past years to Congress, but on Tuesday it fell on fresh ears, including Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who praised Bloomberg’s efforts on the issue.

The mayor argued that giving homeland security dollars to rural areas often does little to deter any real terrorist threats.

“Our corn crop is very important. We can’t eat in this country without it,” he said. “But homeland security monies shouldn’t go to protect the corn crop because that’s not what terrorists are going to try to attack.”

Asked after the 3-hour hearing if he thought Democrats would now do more for New York than the Republicans did in past years, Bloomberg said: “Only time will tell.”

“I really don’t think this is a partisan issue as much as a parochial issue,” said the mayor, referring to the fact that past disputes about grants have broken down over geographic, not political, lines.

Despite his calls for more help from the federal government, Bloomberg dismissed as unrealistic a goal of House Democrats to require 100% screening of cargo containers coming into U.S. ports.

Bloomberg compared that notion to trying to police a city by having “a cop on every corner.”

“Trying to do 100% is probably just not practical.”

Lieberman sounded supportive of the mayor’s goal, despite the fact that in the previous GOP-controlled Senate, he has supported a bipartisan Senate measure that New York officials felt gave too much money to rural areas at low risk.

Lieberman said he wanted not just to change how the pool of anti-terror dollars was shared among cities, he wanted to increase the total amount of national dollars.

The senator also chided Congress for failing to reform its own role in homeland security oversight, a core part of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.

“We found it a lot easier to reform the rest of government than it is to reform ourselves,” he said.

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