Passing a $31.8-billion homeland security spending bill yesterday, U.S. Senate Republican leaders beat back attempts by senators from states with large urban centers to increase money for mass transit protection by as much as $1.4 billion. GOP leaders argued that potentially catastrophic threats such as nuclear, chemical, and biological attacks should get higher priorities. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff appeared before the House Committee on Homeland Security and was assailed by Democrats who accused him of neglecting mass transit. In the Senate’s spending bill, rail and transit safety was allotted $100 million, a drop of $50 million from last year.
Chertoff told House members he is committed to a “disciplined approach to risk management that considers what is the optimal amount of security, but does it in a way that does not destroy our way of life.” In an interview with Associated Press, Chertoff said, “The truth of the matter is that a fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people. A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people.