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Congress Approves Funds for US Homeland Security - 2003-09-24

The House and Senate Wednesday gave final approval to a spending bill for the new Department of Homeland Security. The measure now goes to President Bush for his signature.

It is the first of 13 appropriations bills that Congress must pass for the next budget year that begins October 1.

It is also the first spending measure for the Homeland Security Department, which opened earlier this year, combining 22 federal agencies. The department was created after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

The spending measure is about $1 billion more than Mr. Bush requested, but Democrats say it still falls short in funding port security and border protection.

"I find it more than ironic," said Senator Robert Byrd, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, "that the Bush administration would oppose homeland security protections for American citizens but ask Congress to appropriate dollars to Iraq for security efforts there.

The measure includes, among other things, money to enhance cargo security and to begin development of an anti-missile device for commercial aircraft.

The bill delays deployment of the government's airline passenger profiling system for five months while Congress determines whether it upholds privacy rights. The program would scan government records and private-sector databases to confirm passengers' identities.