Have House Republicans given up on border security?

HAVE HOUSE REPUBLICANS GIVEN UP ON BORDER SECURITY?…. Fox News’ Steve Doocy told viewers yesterday he feels sorry for Arizona, because as he sees it, federal officials aren’t “doing their job” when it comes to immigration and border security.

This is a common complaint among Republicans. As the GOP sees it, policymakers can’t even begin to discuss comprehensive immigration reform because the federal government isn’t doing enough to “protect the border.”

I tend to think most of this rhetoric is absurd, but this week, it took a more interesting turn. If the Republican emphasis is on border security, why did Republicans vote to reduce funding for their own priority?

In a letter sent on Monday to House appropriations leaders, Senator Charles Schumer of New York and two other Democrats said the House bill would shrink the Border Patrol by 870 agents and cut $272 million in funds for surveillance systems to monitor the border with Mexico. They said those cuts would cancel gains from a bill adopted last August, with virtually unanimous bipartisan support, that increased border funding by $600 million, adding 1,000 new agents to the Border Patrol.

“This magnitude of reduction is simply dangerous,” wrote Mr. Schumer, who is chairman of the Senate judiciary subcommittee on immigration. Also signing were Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Jon Tester of Montana. […]

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of slowing border enforcement, allowing illegal immigration and drug violence to run out of control. Support for their criticism came in testimony last week before a House Homeland Security subcommittee by Richard M. Stana of the Government Accountability Office. He reported that by the Border Patrol’s own standards, its agents had “operational control” over only 873 miles of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico in 2010, or about 44 percent.

On Tuesday, House Republicans said this wasn’t good enough. Three days later, those same House Republicans voted to make the security they consider insufficient considerably worse — a smaller Border Patrol with fewer agents and less surveillance would mean a step backwards from the GOP’s own goals.

The next question, then, is why in the world Republicans would demand improved border security and then vote to do the opposite. The answer, I suspect, is that House GOP officials don’t really know what they’re doing — they looked at the budget for the fiscal year like a pinata, and just started swinging wildly while blindfolded. It seems quite likely to me that Republicans slashed funding for the Border Patrol without even realizing it.

Indeed, I imagine this happened quite a bit. The same measure included drastic cuts to national security priorities, slashing funds for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s counter-proliferation programs, and even eliminating funds to maintain the nation’s nuclear stockpile. Why would Republicans who claim to care about national security do this? Perhaps because they didn’t understand what they were voting for.