Top Dem: White House 'out of line' with Schumer criticism

Greg Nash

The White House was "out of line" when it went after Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerImmigration was barely covered in the debates GOP leaders advise members to proceed with caution on Trump Senate Dems demand answers from Wells Fargo over treatment of military MORE (D-N.Y.) over anti-terror funding for New York, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said Friday.

Schumer and the Obama administration have clashed this week over President Obama's proposal to slash certain Homeland Security grants — a skirmish that peaked Wednesday when White House spokesman Josh Earnest questioned Schumer's credibility on the issue

Crowley, the vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and stalwart New Yorker, is coming to Schumer's defense, decrying both the proposed cuts and the shot at Schumer.

“It’s time for the politics, false accusations and ugly rhetoric to stop," Crowley said in a statement. 

“The White House was out of line when it used its podium to question the credibility of our senior Senator, especially considering his position is shared by many in Congress."

Yet Crowley also pushed back hard against the idea that the proposed cuts were in retaliation for Schumer's opposition last year to Obama's Iran nuclear deal, an idea floated this week by the New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton.

"Basically, what the White House has done is tip their hand," Bratton said Wednesday. "This might be political payback against Sen. Schumer for a vote he made a while back.” 

Crowley called the insinuation "outlandish."

"Any notion that the administration’s proposal was motivated by any one person or in retribution for a particular vote is outlandish, not to mention offensive and dismissive of both the facts and the rest of our delegation who have all been strong, bipartisan champions for our city and these programs," Crowley said.

At issue are a series of Homeland Security grant programs the Obama administration has proposed to cut or consolidate in recent budgets. They include the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), the State Homeland Security Grant Program, the Port Security Grant Program and the Transit Security Grant Program, all of which provide significant funding to greater New York City. 

New York lawmakers in both parties have decried the proposed changes, and Crowley has joined forces with Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) in leading the charge to fend off the cuts in the appropriations process in recent years.

Undeterred, the administration proposed similar cuts in its 2017 budget, including a huge reduction in UASI funds, from $600 million to $330 million. 

On Wednesday, Schumer — joined by Bratton and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) — vowed to fight the proposal tooth and nail.

“This is a huge mistake, and I am here to pledge to the mayor and even more importantly to our men and woman who are in the police, fire and other departments, and to the citizens of New York, these cuts will not stand,” Schumer said, according to the New York Observer.

The comments led Earnest to fire back, suggesting that Schumer's vote on Iran has sapped his authority on the topic.

“At some point, Sen. Schumer's credibility in talking about national security issues, particularly when the facts are as they are when it relates to homeland security, have to be affected by the position that he's taken on other issues,” Earnest said Wednesday

“He was wrong about that position,” Earnest added. “And most Democrats disagreed with him in taking that position.” 

Crowley's Friday statement appears designed, at least in part, to defuse the tensions and re-channel the debate to one over the importance of ensuring the nation's security. 

“It’s time to put personalities and politics aside," Crowley said. "I am confident that when the budget process is complete, we will have secured New York the funds it needs to continue to protect our city and state — not to mention the country.”

Jordan Fabian contributed.