Department of Homeland Security Fundingby Senator Debbie Stabenow
Posted on 2015-02-10
STABENOW. Mr. President, we are in a countdown of sorts right
now, and it is one I am deeply concerned about. On February 27, the
funding for the Department of Homeland Security of our country runs
out, and that is 17 days from now. Only 17 days from now, our Border
and Customs and air traffic controllers, air security, Coast Guard--all
of those agencies and all of the people involved in protecting us from
the terrorist threats all around us--will lose their funding in one way
or the other if we don't act.
On Sunday morning in Michigan, we had a reminder of the threat that exists within our borders. A man crashed his truck into a U.S. Coast Guard station in Grand Haven on the west side of Michigan. Then he assaulted members of the Coast Guard, which is, by the way, a Department of Homeland Security facility and will be affected by what is going to happen. The man claimed to have explosives in his truck. Fortunately, that turned out not to be true. Still, local officials initially called it ``an act of domestic terrorism.'' Department of Homeland Security officials have been working alongside other Federal agencies and local law enforcement to investigate. My colleagues can imagine how people on the west side of Michigan are feeling right now and how members of the Coast Guard are feeling about this.
This is the work the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do every day in every part of Michigan, in every part of our country, in every part of our cities, including the District of Columbia, and in the communities we all represent. Frankly, people are scratching their heads right now about what in the world is going on.
I appreciate the fact there are disagreements with the President regarding immigration policy. Certainly, we can debate that. We can discuss it. The Republican leader can bring up the issue of immigration at any time on the floor of the Senate. But that should not be tied to whether we fund the Department of Homeland Security for our country. Homeland security funding should not be held hostage to what I view as the politics of the moment on immigration. We may have a disagreement in terms of immigration issues, but we should not have any disagreement about the need to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security.
We rely on the Department of Homeland Security to provide our transportation security at shipping ports and at all of our airports. We all go back and forth every single week. Millions of Americans are counting on the fact that people at our airports--people we see and people we don't see--are keeping us safe from attacks--the passengers, the cargo.
Michigan is a border State. We are the largest northern border crossing in the country for goods, services, and people coming back and forth from Detroit to Windsor. It is the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security--Border and Customs--who are keeping our borders safe every day.
We rely on the Department of Homeland Security to protect us against nuclear attacks, chemical attacks, and cyber attacks every day. In recent years, major American financial institutions have been attacked by hackers. I have been in a situation as a customer of a major company getting that notice in the mail about my credit card. Millions of Americans have been in that situation. We expect that we are going to make sure we are protecting people's information, their financial security, the financial security of businesses. That is what is done through the Department of Homeland Security.
Seventeen days from now, if we don't act to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security, we will see the funding for that Department stop.
Chinese hackers targeted the U.S. Transportation Department Command, which directs the global movement of U.S. military forces. Hackers have gone after America's transportation and communications infrastructure over and over again.
This is very serious. This is very serious. This is not about politics or differences of opinion with the United States or having some leverage by holding funding up in order to get something else that group of people wants to get. This is about whether we are going to straight-up fund the security operations of our country. We have terrorists and terror threats all around us. Look at the globe--all around us. This is not the time to play politics with Homeland Security funding.
Last year we passed, with a huge majority, a bipartisan immigration bill. Immigration deserves a debate. There will be differences of opinion. I still think there is a broad bipartisan coalition to do comprehensive reform that makes sense for everyone, makes sense for America. But this is not the time to say: It is either my way or the highway. Either I get the changes I want or I will say to the President of the United States that he is wrong, that he is playing politics, whatever it is, and I am going to hold up the security of our country in order to do it.
I think most people in Washington are saying: What in the world is going on here? Terror threats are all around us, and we are 17 days away from a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Frankly, we can do better than that as an institution, as the U.S. Senate. We can do better in Congress than constantly having these roller coasters up and down and threats of government shutdowns. We have seen it before. We are now seeing the possibility of it again.
Seventeen days from now, if Homeland Security is shut down, if we aren't funding our border, cockpits, airport security, ports, the Coast Guard, and all the other things that keep us safe, there is going to be a big party. Do you know who is going to throw that party? The enemies of America. The terrorists who want very much to have the opportunity to attack our country. That makes absolutely no sense.
Let's come together this week before we leave. We are not in session next week. We can get this done. Let's just pass the Homeland Security budget and get on with important debates on other topics that we all care about. I hope we can do that and get this done as soon as possible.
I yield the floor.