A few days after Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, told a Politico audience that Customs and Border Protection lines were already ballooning up to 200 percent of their normal waiting times, the House has approved a $982 billion spending package on March 6th designed to avert a partial government shutdown and cancel a 0.5 percent Federal pay raise scheduled to go into effect at the end of the month. The package now goes to the Senate.
The Obama administration says it is “deeply concerned” about the measure, which locks in the sequester’s budget cuts but gives more spending capability to the Defense Department, including Customs and Border protection.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, (R-Ky.), said before the vote that the measure would take the risk of government shutdown off the table.
Democrats however, denounced the measure for continuing the sequester cuts. The Wall Street Journal and other sources report that they will most likely push for other agencies like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to be included in the measure.
Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association praised the move saying: “We applaud the House for requiring CBP to maintain staffing levels and address the issue of unacceptable wait times at our major ports of entry, and we hope the Senate takes up action very soon to provide additional resources that facilitate travel to and within the United States. International travelers – who have an economic impact of $153 billion and support 1.2 million U.S. jobs – should not have to wait up to three or four hours for a three-minute interview when they arrive in the United States.”
Congress requires CBP to have 21,775 customs officers. The department reported it would have to cut as many as 2,750 of those officers due to the sequester.