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Democrats’ 9/11 Bill Would Cost $21 Billion Over 5 Years February 3, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–A bill stepping up port and aviation security and implementing other recommendations of the 9/11 commission, a top priority of House Democrats, would cost $21 billion over the next five years, congressional budget analysts estimated Friday.

The report was issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which provides economic and budgetary advice to members of Congress.

The bill, carrying the number H.R. 1 to symbolize its importance to the Democratic majority, was passed by the House on Jan. 9, at the start of the leadership’s first 100 hours in charge.

Even though the bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 299-128, the Bush administration made clear it opposed several of the bill’s provisions. Some senators expressed strong skepticism whether it could survive intact in the Senate, which is working on its own version.

The cost estimate fills a gap that drew criticism at the time of passage in the House because the bill did not at that point include a price tag. The five-year estimate is equal to nearly half the Homeland Security Department’s budget for just one year.

One of the more controversial provisions of the bill, which would require screening of all U.S.-bound cargo on container ships before they leave foreign ports, was not included in the estimate. The act contemplates those costs being borne by carriers and the foreign ports.

Similarly, the bill required 100% screening of cargo loaded onto passenger planes, and that cost would be borne by the air carriers.

“This bill was rushed to the floor without the Democratic leadership giving us any indication of its massive cost – and now we know why,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., top Republican on the House Homeland Security committee.

But that panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., defended the first bill he ushered to passage.

“Perhaps there would not be such sticker shock,” he said, if Congress and the administration had addressed the 9/11 commission’s recommendations three years ago.

The bipartisan commission reported on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and suggested steps the government should take to try to prevent another.

The CBO broke down the cost estimate for some of the bill’s provisions, including:

-$1.6 billion from 2009 to 2012 to improve emergency communications systems for police, firefighters and other emergency workers. The CBO assumed the program would not be eligible for funds until 2009 because planning for the programs is still under way.

-$13.1 billion from 2007 to 2012 for increased aviation security programs above the amount collected in fees from airline passengers.

-$1.3 billion from 2008 to 2012 for programs aimed at halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

-$4.3 billion from 2008 to 2012 for educational and cultural activities in Arab and predominantly Muslim countries.

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