White House rips Schumer over anti-terror funding

White House rips Schumer over anti-terror funding
© Greg Nash

The White House on Wednesday lashed out at Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Ex-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis MORE for criticizing cuts to anti-terrorism programs in President Obama’s budget request, saying the New York Democrat is losing “credibility” on the issue.

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Schumer joined other officials — including New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio (D) and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton — at a press conference Wednesday decrying Obama’s proposed cuts to the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI).

Press secretary Josh Earnest later defended the administration’s efforts to fund New York’s counterterrorism capabilities, saying it receives more security money than any municipality in the country.

“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, referring to Schumer's opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.

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

It’s unusual for the White House to deliver such a public tongue-lashing to Schumer, who is expected to take over Democratic leader in the Senate next year.  The three-term senator commands respect among his colleagues in the upper chamber, and the White House will need his support to advance its final-year agenda, including confirming a nominee to the Supreme Court.

But as Earnest noted, tensions flared last summer when Schumer came out against the nuclear pact with Iran, a major piece of Obama’s second-term agenda.

This time, New York officials are upset with a major cut to the UASI program, which helps cities prevent or respond to terror attacks. Obama’s budget proposed $330 million in funding during the next fiscal year, and Congress funded it at $600 million this year.

New York City’s funding would be cut from $180 million to $90 million, leaders said. Republicans declared Obama's budget dead on arrival in Congress, so it's unlikely the cuts would be made.

“In light of recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and the vow by our extremist enemies to launch more attacks on our shores, it makes no sense for bureaucrats in Washington to propose cuts to vital terror-prevention programs like UASI,” Schumer said in a statement Sunday.

“These proposed cuts are ill-advised and ill-timed and they must be reversed," he added. "End of story."

The White House responded on Wednesday that Obama’s budget provides ample funding for local terrorism prevention programs, of which New York could take advantage.

It pointed to a $100 million regional grant competition and $39 million in additional grant funding to help states prepare for and respond to terror strikes.

"This information has been provided to New York officials," Earnest said. "I understand that there that the news conference that they convened today is part of basically an annual event. But apparently in this case, they didn't let the facts of the matter have an impact on the scheduling of this year's event."