In Border Fence's Path, Congressional Roadblocks
The Washington Post reported Friday October 6 that:
No sooner did Congress authorize construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border last week than lawmakers rushed to approve separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, at least not as advertised, according to Republican lawmakers and immigration experts.
GOP leaders have singled out the fence as one of the primary accomplishments of the recently completed session. Many lawmakers plan to highlight their $1.2 billion down payment on its construction as they campaign in the weeks before the midterm elections.
But shortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects -- not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and "tactical infrastructure" to support the Department of Homeland Security's preferred option of a "virtual fence."
What's more, in a late-night concession to win over wavering Republicans, GOP congressional leaders pledged in writing that Native American tribes, members of Congress, governors and local leaders would get a say in "the exact placement" of any structure, and that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff would have the flexibility to use alternatives "when fencing is ineffective or impractical."
The loopholes leave the Bush administration with authority to decide where, when and how long a fence will be built, except for small stretches east of San Diego and in western Arizona. Homeland Security officials have proposed a fence half as long, lawmakers said.
"It's one thing to authorize. It's another thing to actually appropriate the money and do it," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). The fine-print distinction between what Congress says it will do and what it actually pays for is a time-honored result of the checks and balances between lawmakers who oversee agencies and those who hold their purse strings.
In this case, it also reflects political calculations by GOP strategists that voters do not mind the details, and that key players -- including the administration, local leaders and the Mexican government -- oppose a fence-only approach, analysts said.
The complete story may be found here: