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Elizabeth W.
Democrat MA

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  • Aumf

    by Senator Elizabeth Warren

    Posted on 2015-02-11

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    WARREN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Ms. WARREN. Mr. President, over the last two weeks Republicans in Congress have insisted on playing political games with funding for the Department of Homeland Security. The same agency that supports States such as Massachusetts when disasters hit, the same agency that provides grants for equipment to keep firefighters safe when they rush into burning buildings, the same agency that helps train and fund local police, the same agency that tracks down weapons that terrorists can use to threaten our safety here at home, the same agency that keeps our borders and airports safe--this is the agency the Republicans are willing to shut down. Why? Why put America at such risk? Because Republicans want to protest the steps President Obama has taken to try to address our country's immigration challenges.

    This is not a responsible way to govern. This is a dangerous way to govern. There are real threats out there, from ISIS in the Middle East to cyber threats, to acts of terror such as the one in Paris earlier this year.

    DHS gives funding to State and local governments to help them prevent terror attacks. Massachusetts received over $30 million in these grants just last year alone. If DHS shuts down, that funding dries up, leaving our firefighters, our police, and our EMTs hanging, putting the safety of every American at risk.

    Think about the Customs and Border Protection agents, who screen people traveling into the United States through our airports, and the men and women of the Coast Guard who patrol our waters. They will still have to work those tough, sometimes dangerous jobs, but if the Republicans shut down the Department of Homeland Security, these people just won't get paid. Tens of thousands of workers nationwide could be working to help keep us safe and not get a paycheck to cover their groceries and rent. That is no way to treat the people who protect this country.

    The solution is simple. Last year Democrats and Republicans agreed on a bipartisan bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. That bill was ready to go until the Republicans decided they wanted to play politics. They decided to hold the Department of Homeland Security hostage to try to force the President to reverse an Executive order on immigration. That Department of Homeland Security funding bill is still ready to go. We could vote on it today and be done with all of this. Everyone who works to protect our safety would keep on working and keep on getting paid.

    A few days ago the Boston Globe wrote an editorial about this, and they said: The game of political chicken has to end with the Republicans blinking. It's one thing to disagree with a President's executive actions, but it's another thing altogether to hold crucial funding for a wide range of security programs hostage.

    I couldn't agree more.

    I ask unanimous consent that the full text of the editorial be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: [From the Boston Globe, Feb. 7, 2015] GOP Should Focus on Fixing Immigration, Not Compromising Security (Editorial) In the latest political show vote on Capitol Hill, Republicans are protesting President Obama's executive orders on immigration, enacted in November, by trying to attach language undoing them to a bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security. The attempt is going nowhere: Earlier this week, Democrats in the Senate blocked the bill from reaching Obama's desk. At the same time, the president has vowed to veto any legislation that reverses his immigration measures.

    This game of political chicken has to end with the Republicans blinking. It's one thing to disagree with the president's executive actions, but it's another thing altogether to hold crucial funding for a wide range of security programs hostage.

    Republicans who believe Obama's executive orders are an abuse of power should instead look for remedy in the courts. If Obama overstepped, the surest way to reverse his orders would be through a judicial ruling. Meanwhile, Congress should pass a ``clean'' Homeland Security funding bill that funds the agency without the immigration language.

    Obama enacted the executive orders only after the House refused to vote on a Senate-passed bill that would have overhauled our current immigration system. In retaliation, the GOP decided to attack the president's orders at the funding source: DHS. The Republican bill included so-called ``poison pill'' amendments that prevent the use of DHS funds or fees to enforce Obama's executive actions, which will benefit about 4 million undocumented immigrants by shielding them from deportation while also allowing them to apply for work permits. The amendments also prevent the use of any funds to continue implementing a 2012 order that protected some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

    Along with some Republicans who voted against the bill in the House and the Senate, three former secretaries of Homeland Security have also urged the GOP to stop using the agency's budget as a political weapon. Republicans Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, and Democrat Janet Napolitano, wrote to Republican leadership: ``DHS's responsibilities are much broader than its responsibility to oversee the federal immigration agencies and to protect our borders . . . Funding for the entire agency should not be put in jeopardy by the debate about immigration.'' They called for a clean funding bill for the rest of the year, like the one Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski and New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen filed last week.

    Obama has said he would be happy to see Congress pass a law that would make his executive orders unnecessary. Republicans, instead of engaging in quixotic budget tactics, should get to work on a new immigration bill and stop compromising national security.

    Ms. WARREN. Let's be clear. If Republicans in the Senate don't change course, they will shut down the Department of Homeland Security and compromise the safety of the American people, and they will have done it because a handful of extremists in the Republican Party are angry at the President because he is trying to fix what we all know is a broken immigration system. Well, if they are angry about the President's immigration policy, let's debate the President's immigration policy. Last Congress the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to address immigration. Let's debate that bill again. Or if they want to propose a new bill, let's vote on that. But don't play games with the safety of the American people.

    The way forward is clear. We need to pass a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

    I yield the floor.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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