WASHINGTON (AP) – House Republicans blocked a vote Tuesday on restoring millions of dollars in counterterror funds to big-city targets, including New York, refusing to bust budget targets over slashed grants to emergency first responders.

New York City-area Democrats pleaded to add $750 million to spending plans to fund the Homeland Security Department in the 2007 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. But Republicans rejected the measure even as they vowed anew to investigate how Homeland Security could justify cutting funding to New York and Washington – the two targets of the Sept. 11 attacks – by 40 percent. The House approved the overall $32 billion spending blueprint, 389-9, shortly afterward.

“Short memories,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Westchester. “Such a cut is unconscionable. … Reducing funding to New York and Washington, D.C., the two targets of the Sept. 11 attacks, is a slap in the face to every first responder who rushed to the emergency scene that morning and every individual living in those regions.”

But Republicans worried about increasing the federal deficit noted that the Democratic plan would have only applied to spending in the 2007 fiscal year beginning in October and would not help this year. Still, they joined Democrats in promising to investigate how Homeland Security divided $710 million among 46 high-threat urban areas nationwide.

The department’s grant program took a $829 million cut from 2005, although some smaller cities, like Omaha, Neb., saw their funding increase.

“It’s tough to understand, considering New York City remains the highest target for terrorism,” said Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park. Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., who chairs the House Appropriations panel that oversees homeland security spending, told lawmakers he supported efforts to “further look into the matter.”

Addressing another Homeland Security controversy, lawmakers agreed to shift $4.2 million from a department contract with a limousine company to fund firefighting grants. The owner of Shirlington Limousine has numerous felony convictions, and other clients used the Virginia-based company to chauffeur people to poker parties attended by House members, CIA officials and, allegedly, prostitutes.

In all, the House bill would give Homeland Security $1.8 billion more in 2007 than this year. It bolsters protections at seaports by $448 million more than in 2006, adds 1,200 Border Patrol agents and boosts the Hurricane Katrina-beleagured Federal Emergency Management Agency by $6.5 billion for disaster preparedness.

For the second straight year, the bill also eliminates a $1.3 billion administration plan to raise fees for airline passengers.

The Senate has yet to write a similar bill.

On the Net:

The FY07 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, H.R. 5441, can be found at: http://thomas.loc.gov/

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