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David P.
Democrat NC 4

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  • Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015

    by Representative David E. Price

    Posted on 2015-01-13

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    PRICE of North Carolina. I thank my colleague for yielding.

    Mr. Chair, the bill before us today, funding the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2015, has been ready for final passage for almost 2 months. I want to thank the gentleman from Texas, Chairman Carter, our Senate counterparts, as well as our dedicated committee staff for working cooperatively through November and December to negotiate a comprehensive and balanced measure.

    Chairman Carter has summarized the underlying bill very, very well. It provides necessary funding increases for the Secret Service to hire new agents for the 2016 Presidential campaign, as well as to make the necessary security adjustments at the White House.

    It provides increased funding for the completion of the Coast Guard's eighth National Security Cutter, $813 million more in disaster relief funding at FEMA, and funding for NPPD's efforts to continue enhancing our national cybersecurity capability.

    But it pains me to say, Mr. Chair, that all of these positive efforts stand in stark contrast to the poison pill amendments that the Rules Committee has made in order for this bill, amendments designed to inject partisan anti-immigration politics into a bipartisan effort to keep our Nation safe.

    Unfortunately, there is nothing new about adding highly inflammatory riders to appropriations bills in a way that wrecks months of cooperative work and makes bipartisan support impossible. We have seen this in middle-of-the-night Homeland Security anti-immigration amendments for 2 years running. But today we are seeing the most egregious and irresponsible abuse of the appropriations process yet.

    Republican leaders have already delayed a full-year funding bill for Homeland Security by nearly a month longer than for the rest of the government despite the fact that this bill was fully negotiated and ready for consideration well before the omnibus bill was assembled at the end of the last Congress. Now, more than a quarter of the way through the fiscal year, the Republican leadership is continuing to play dangerous and irresponsible games with the funding of this Department, the Department that was created to protect the Nation from terrorist attacks.

    Members, of course, are aware of the horrendous murder of 17 individuals last week in France by terrorists. This is an alarming example of the kind of brutal and calculated attack that the Department of Homeland Security and its law enforcement partners are working hard to prevent here in the United States. It is the kind of attack that keeps Secretary Johnson up at night and should keep us up at night as well. This alone should make it unthinkable to dawdle on a full-year funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

    Last Sunday, 3 million people participated in unity marches in France. But we are sending a very different message by delaying homeland security funding.

    Six days removed from a heinous terrorist act, we are dawdling. We are holding back. We are refusing to immediately send to the President a bipartisan bill designed to keep the Nation safe. Instead, we are tacking on politically charged items that will rightfully ensure a veto.

    Now, Mr. Chair, some Members seem to be under the mistaken impression that departments and agencies might make out just fine under a continuing resolution. Perhaps some Members even think that it would be okay for the Department's funding to expire for some amount of time beginning in late February so that they could underscore the political point they want to make. That is a patently false assumption.

    In a few weeks, the fiscal year 2016 budget will be submitted by the President, and DHS still doesn't know how much money it will be spending in 2015. How can we expect the Department to effectively budget if it has no idea of what the baseline will be for its programs and activities? How can we expect an agency to effectively function when the availability of funding for critical new endeavors is undetermined for a quarter of the fiscal year or more? How can we, as a Congress, even perform effective oversight when we force ourselves to simultaneously finish 2015 funding as we consider the 2016 request? {time} 1800 Ironically, the two agencies that stand to lose the most from this flawed Republican strategy are the very agencies they purport to champion, agencies responsible for immigration enforcement: Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    Under the House bill, these two agencies combined would receive nearly $1 billion more than the current spending level, which a CR would reflect. The bill we are not passing would provide that additional funding. Republicans, however, appear more interested in scoring political points than in actually making progress on the border.

    Now, the apparent intent of the House majority in holding back full- year funding for DHS is to help them reverse the President's executive actions on immigration policy; but how is that going to really play out? Without 60 votes in the Senate, the bill will go nowhere. Even if the Senate were to pass the bill with the poison pill riders intact, the President would certainly veto it with absolutely no chance the House or Senate could override that veto.

    What is left of the majority's strategy? Would the Republican majorities in the House and Senate really be willing to let funding for the Department of Homeland Security lapse when the short-term continuing resolution expires? The vast majority of DHS employees are considered essential, so they would still need to show up for work.

    Will the House majority really be willing to let frontline agents and officers at CBP and ICE work without pay? Would the House majority be willing to let the Coast Guard military personnel continue to risk their lives at sea without compensation? Imagine the outrage--imagine--if a Democratic Congress ever held funding for the Department of Homeland Security hostage during the George W. Bush administration; yet that is precisely what House Republicans are doing with these poison pill amendments made in order under the rule.

    Believe me, these pills really are poison. They cater to the Republican Conference's most extreme elements; one of them even targets the DREAM Act students, reversing the President's widely-acclaimed and -accepted decision to focus instead on the deportation of dangerous criminals.

    A full-year DHS funding bill was negotiated in good faith on a bicameral, bipartisan basis, and it addresses the most pressing needs of the Department and works to protect the country from harm.

    If Republicans want to make mean-spirited and destructive changes in immigration policy, there is a legislative process for doing that.

    In the meantime, we should be passing a clean, full-year funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, just as we should have done in December. I urge defeat of the anti-immigration amendments and adoption of the underlying appropriations bill, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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