A picture of Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
Barbara M.
Democrat MD

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    by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

    Posted on 2015-02-11

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    MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I rise to talk about the Department of Homeland Security and the necessity to fund it.

    Earlier today the President submitted a document for the authorization of use of military force to the Congress. I take the President's request very seriously. I look forward to the analysis that will be done by the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and debate on the floor.

    Why did the President send it and why did so many in the Congress call for it? It is because everybody says that we have to do something about ISIL. You know what. I think we do have to do something about ISIL. What a ghoulish, barbaric terrorist group. There is no doubt there has to be an international effort to strike them from the planet and that the United States has to be a part of it.

    But what comes out when we talk about ISIL is the need to have a strong, robust counterterrorism effort. If we are going to fight counterterrorism, we must fund the agency that has the principal responsibility for protecting the homeland.

    The Department of Defense protects us against foreign invaders, but we have to also protect the homeland--whether it is against cyber security threats or other terrorist activity or other dangers that come to our country.

    So why after 2 weeks do we have the Department of Homeland Security appropriations for fiscal year 2015? We are ready to vote on it. We have a clean bill. I am speaking now as the ranking or vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. During fiscal year 2014, I chaired the committee. At the end of the year, when we worked on our omnibus, it was the will of the Congress that we would fund all government agencies except Homeland Security and instead put it on a continuing resolution until February 27 because there were those in both Houses who were cranky about the fact that President Obama exercised Executive authority in certain matters related to immigration.

    So now we are holding up the entire funding for the Department of Homeland Security because some people are cranky with President Obama over him using an Executive order on immigration. These very people who are so cranky are criticizing him for being a weak leader. Oh, where is President Obama? Why doesn't he take strong and decisive action? When the President takes strong and decisive action, they not only don't like it, they are willing to hold up the entire funding for the Department of Homeland Security over this. What is this? Do we have a new math where 1 and 1 makes 14 or 5? We created the Department of Homeland Security after the horrific attack of 9/11, and they need to be funded.

    I am here to urge that we pass a clean funding bill to protect the Nation from terrorism, cyber security threats which are mounting every day, and so we can also help our communities respond to other threats.

    I believe immigration does deserve a debate. I am not arguing about that, nor would I ever want to stifle a Senator's ability to speak on topics where they have strong beliefs and deeply held views, but let's move immigration to a different forum to talk about it.

    In the last Congress the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill. It went to the House, and it sat there. Gee, it sat there. After a while it kind of sat there some more, and then it died as that session came to an end.

    The President, frustrated that the House of Representatives refused to take up a bill and debate it through its committees and on the floor, acted through Executive order.

    So my view is let's bring up immigration, let's move our comprehensive bill again with a full and ample debate, full and ample amendments. Maybe the House will finally get around to talking about immigration instead of talking about President Obama, and then we can pass the Homeland Security bill.

    [[Page S923]] Three times last week the Senate rejected a procedural vote to take up Homeland Security. People can ask: Senator Barb, why did you do that? I voted not to delay but to move on. We Senate Democrats tried to move a clean Homeland Security funding bill. What does that mean? We focused only on the money. We said we did not want to have the five poison pill immigration riders that are in the House bill. We wanted to be able to take that out.

    The President has been very clear. If we send him a bill that includes funding plus five poison pill riders on immigration, he will veto it. What is the consequence? We become a public spectacle in the world's eyes. We play parliamentary ping-pong with the President of the United States. We pass a bill because we want to have a temper tantrum. He vetoes it. It comes back. We have another debate where we huff and puff and hope problems will go away. We then try to override a veto and all the while we are eating up time.

    The world is watching us. Our treasured allies are not the only ones asking about what is going on with the United States and how the greatest deliberative body has become the greatest delaying body. Our enemies say we can't get our act together internally to pass the very money to take them on, so they are going to try to bring it to us.

    In the end, when all is said and done, more is getting said than done. Before we go out for the Presidents Day recess, I urge the Senate to pass this bill.

    Tomorrow we are going to vote to confirm the Secretary of Defense, Dr. Ashton Carter. He has gone through the process and was reported out of committee. I look forward to voting for him.

    Why are we going to move so fast to confirm Dr. Carter? Because we need a Secretary of Defense. We have to fight for America. We have to stand up for America. We have to be muscular and ready to deal with those bad guys. I agree with that.

    I salute our military every day and in every way. They are out there on the frontlines, and their families are there to lovingly support them.

    We are going to have a Secretary of Defense. Let's not forget we also have a Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr. Jeh Johnson. Instead of America having deep pockets to fight terrorism, the Secretary of Homeland Security will have empty pockets.

    What is this? We are going to rush to confirm Dr. Carter, and I think we ought to. There is no dispute from me on that. Shouldn't we also rush to complete our work and fund Homeland Security? I think we should. We could do it tomorrow. We could do it tomorrow and pass this clean bill.

    The Department of Homeland Security's mission is to protect America from terrorism and help communities respond to all threats, from terrorism to natural disasters. We are talking about the TSA, which protects our airports. We are talking about the Border Patrol and ICE, so if we are talking about immigration, don't we want to fund the agents out there protecting our borders? Don't we want to continue to have cyber warriors securing our networks? We need to support the people who are dealing with bio and nuclear threats. We need to also continue supporting State and local first responders, firefighters, and EMS personnel in the different States so they can be ready--whether they are responding to a local disaster or something that has been caused by a despicable attack. We need to be able to pass this bill.

    The Department of Homeland Security funding runs out on February 27, and my view is that instead of running the clock we should move this bill. I believe it could pass tomorrow and that we could get our job done. But, no, we are all going to go back to our home States and tell everybody how they have a government on their side and how they can count on us to fight for America. But the way to fight for America is to stop fighting with each other.

    Let's try to find a sensible Senator and move this bill forward. I believe people on both sides of the aisle are patriots. I believe people on both sides of the aisle want to defend America. Let's come together on both sides of the aisle, right down the middle, and let's find a way to move this bill forward and have a debate on immigration. I don't want to stifle or stiff-arm it, but let's move this forward, and let's stand shoulder to shoulder doing our job to fund the agency that has the principal responsibility for protecting the homeland.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.

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