Yesterday, ThinkProgress reported that right-wing members of the House of Representatives defeated an amendment by Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN) that would have provided $1.25 billion in desperately-needed funding for port security and disaster preparedness. Today, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked if the President was disappointed. Watch it:
McClellan claimed “we are doing everything we can to protect our ports.” That’s just not true. For example, one of the programs McClellan touted today — the Container Security Initiative — is only in operation at 43 of the 140 overseas ports that ship directly to the United States due to chronic underfunding. The Sabo amendment would have provided an additional $300 million in funding, enough to extend the program to all 140 ports.
QUESTION: Is the president disappointed that the House defeated the amendment yesterday that would have provided $1.25 [b]illion for port security and disaster preparedness funding?
MCCLELLAN: You’re talking about the Senate budget resolution?
QUESTION: No. I’m talking about the Sabo amendment in the House.
MCCLELLAN: In the House? Well, first of all, a couple things.
One, we have significantly increased funding for port security. Strengthening our port security or improving our port security has been a top priority for this president. And so we’ve taken a number of steps, particularly since September 11th, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to secure our ports.
We’ve moved forward on a Container Security Initiative. We have pushed out the screening of ports to make sure that we know what is coming in on ships when they’re coming into our ports, well before they arrive on our shores. And we have taken a number of steps to make sure that we are funding the Customs and Border Protection so that they can carry out their important security responsibilities at the ports — and the Coast Guard. And we want to continue working with Congress and continue building upon those efforts.
QUESTION: But would it be the president’s view that the $1.25 billion is not necessary; that, in fact, what you already have is what’s necessary?
MCCLELLAN: The president’s view is that we have taken a number of steps to better secure our ports, and we need to continue to work to build upon those efforts. And that’s exactly what we will continue doing.