WASHINGTON - New York lawmakers Sunday called the attempted Times Square bombing a reminder that New York City remains a top target for terrorists and urged the Obama administration to restore federal anti-terrorism funds it proposes to cut.
"We need homeland security funding. We are the number one terrorist target in the world," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the House Homeland Security Committee's top Republican, as he called for reversing 2011 budget reductions.
President Barack Obama chopped $20 million for a radiation detection program and sought to save money by eliminating the New York base for special Coast Guard patrols and reducing some grants - cuts that New York politicians say they'll try to head off.
The New York congressional delegation seized on Saturday's car-bomb scare to boost their intense lobbying and legislative maneuvers to try to restore funds for the Securing the Cities program, which rings the city with radiation detectors.
Both King and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) singled out that program on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.
The detectors aren't intended to and did not screen for bombs built of gasoline and propane tanks, like the one that failed to ignite Saturday. But New York lawmakers said the incident signals that now is not the time to pull back federal funding.
For the past two years, the administration has tried to eliminate the Securing the Cities funding. Begun in 2006, it was designed as a three-year pilot program. DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said it has $37 million in unspent funds, which will carry it through this year, and next year the department plans a full-scale exercise to test its effectiveness.
Last year, however, Congress rejected the administration's approach and restored $20 million to the 2010 budget. The New York delegation is now leading an effort to add back another $20 million for 2011.
On Thursday, King and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote congressional appropriators asking for the funds. In recent weeks, King and Schumer pressed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to ask Obama budget officials to reconsider the funding.
Also demanding more federal homeland security money were Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), who praised the Vietnam War veteran who flagged the smoking SUV, and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who urged the "highest level" of funding for New York and big cities in terrorists' "crosshairs."
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he would "join in a bipartisan effort to restore the funding" for Securing the Cities. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights) said the bomb attempt showed "you can never be too prepared," adding that homeland security funds are "not a luxury - this is something that we need."