Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona are ready for another fight over border security.
The senators introduced legislation on Wednesday for $4 billion in additional spending over the next five years to beef up security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill is essentially an amped-up version of border security legislation they introduced last year, which was ultimately pared way down.
Acknowledging tough fiscal times, the senators said their new bill would be offset with unspent money from other government accounts. They don't, however, specify which accounts those should be. That decision is up to the Obama administration, they said.
The bill calls for $250 million over five years to build more double-layer physical fencing in Southwest states, as well as $335 million to continuously fly drones over the border and to buy more fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
It would also provide $600 million for the government to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops across the border through 2016. About 1,200 Guard troops are currently operating along the border under a program known as Operation Jumpstart, but that effort is scheduled to end this summer.
The bill would also pay for 5,000 more Border Patrol agents over the next five years at a cost of $1.5 billion. It would provide $750 million in new funds to support programs that help border states and communities prosecute those caught trying to sneak into the country illegally, and reimburse law enforcement agencies for personnel and travel costs associated with enforcing the nation’s immigration and drug laws.
McCain and Kyl tried unsuccessfully last year to add about $3 billion for similar border security efforts to a war-spending bill. Democrats defeated them, largely because they wanted to use unspent stimulus money to cover the costs.
But Democrats ultimately agreed to pass a $600 million emergency border security supplemental bill last August, as they were facing political pressure in the run-up to the November elections. That bill was paid for by increasing fees on foreign companies that abuse the U.S. work visa system.
McCain and Kyl are trying once again to place political pressure on Democrats.
“With hundreds of thousands of people illegally crossing the border every year and record drug smuggling and violence, shouldn’t the government be working to completely secure the border? Our plan is a straightforward approach that will actually achieve a secure border,” Kyl said in a statement.
But it isn’t clear if the pressure will work this time around. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has in recent weeks forcefully pushed back at those who say the border is out of control.
"Given the deployment of resources, given the statistical framework, it is simply inaccurate to state—as too many have—that the border with Mexico is overrun or out of control. This statement, I think, sometimes [is] made to score some political points, you know," Napolitano said in an April 1 speech in Washington, D.C. "But it’s wrong. It’s just plain wrong."