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US Democrats In No Rush To Build Fence On Mexico Border January 19, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.

By Suzanne Gamboa

WASHINGTON (AP)–A law to erect hundreds of miles of fence on the U.S.-Mexican border is on the books, and money to start it has been approved. Still, the next step is uncertain.

Republicans worry that now they have lost control of Congress, they never will see the fence built. Democrats in charge today generally oppose the fence.

The law passed last year says Congress doesn’t have to release the money until lawmakers approve how the fence will be built.

Based on the comments of some Democrats, there is no rush.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he wants the Bush administration to offer a plan for securing the northern and southern borders.

“My preference is to delay the construction of a fence until we have a plan,” said Thompson, D-Miss.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said this week Democrats want “the best possible way” to secure the border.

Hoyer voted against the fence last year, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Though the total fencing was believed to be about 700 miles, congressional researchers say it is closer to about 850 miles.

A separate law on Homeland Security Department spending provided $1.2 billion for the fencing. That law also withholds $950 million of the sum until the House and Senate appropriations committees approve the department’s plan for spending the money.

Attempts to get comment from the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees weren’t immediately successful.

Some Republicans have written U.S. President George W. Bush asking him to request more money for the fence’s construction in his 2008 budget.

In a recent news conference, Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Steve King of New York said the cost of the fence would be in line with the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate: $3 million a mile, for a total of $2.6 billion.

“It’s just a fence. It’s the kind of fence we build in America every day,” Hunter said.

In a Dec. 12 report, the Congressional Research Service said costs could be higher.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated a double-layer fence would cost a little over $1 million a mile, not including buying the land on which it would be built, the research service said. In addition, maintenance could run from $16.4 million to $70 million a mile over 25 years, the Corps said.

The Homeland Security Department has contracted with Boeing Co. (BA) for the Secure Border Initiative, consisting of a “virtual fence” of cameras, surveillance technology and new procedures for border agents. The first phase is to be completed in Arizona in June. A recent audit report said that project could cost between $8 billion and $30 billion.


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