Department of Homeland Security Fundingby Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Posted on 2015-02-12
SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I have come to the floor, with just 16
days left until the Department of Homeland Security shuts down, to
again call for Congress to pass a clean full-year bill to fund the
Department of Homeland Security. With our Nation facing very real and
very dangerous threats--Senator Murphy was just on the floor talking
about the ISIL threat and pointed out what the risks are--it is time
for us to put politics aside and do what is right for the security of
If we don't pass a full-year bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, we will not be able to make critical investments in border security, maritime security, and in nuclear detection activities.
If we don't pass a full-year bill, grants to protect our cities and our ports from terror attacks would be halted, and new grants to police and firefighters will not be awarded. If we don't pass a full-year bill, we are shortchanging counterterrorism efforts, and we will put our Nation's cyber networks at risk.
Senator Mikulski and I have filed a clean, full-year funding bill that is on the Senate calendar and ready for action. Our bill fully funds these key security priorities, but if our colleagues on the other side of the aisle don't want to support a bill that Senator Mikulski and I have filed, certainly we can support a clean Republican bill that includes the funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
Our bill--our clean bill--is based on the bicameral, bipartisan agreement that was reached in December by Senator Mikulski and Congressman Hal Rogers. The legislation was agreed to by Democrats and Republicans, and it was the result of bipartisan, compromised negotiations. Not everyone got what they wanted in the bill, but it is a good budget that strengthens our Nation and protects against the many threats we face.
Appropriations bills are only possible because of the art of compromise. Senators from both parties identify priorities important to them or their States. They work with Members of the Appropriations Committee on bill language, funding priorities. Everyone works together to influence the final product. All Senators have the opportunity to participate in crafting appropriations bills.
In fact, there doesn't seem to be any disagreement about the funding and how it is allocated in the appropriations bill before us, in the funding bill for Homeland Security. Senator Cochran, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, came to the floor and touted all of the benefits in the funding bill for Homeland Security. Senator Hoeven, who chairs the Subcommittee on Homeland Security that I am the ranking member of, came to the floor and, similar to Senator Cochran, touted what is on the bill. I have been on the floor, Senator Mikulski has been to the floor many times to talk about what is in the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security and why we need to pass it.
This morning I wish to highlight a few more of the priorities in a clean, full-year bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, priorities that will be at risk if we can't pass a clean bill.
There is bipartisan support that the Homeland Security appropriations bill includes strong funding for fire and SAFER grants. I know the Presiding Officer understands these programs because he has been the Governor of his home State. So he knows how important those fire and SAFER grants are to local fire departments, to first responders because they help purchase new equipment, they help with training exercises, and they can help fire departments cut down response times and save lives.
There is also bipartisan support that the Homeland Security funding bill include grants to help our Nation's largest cities protect against terror attacks. There is funding for port security grants, State and local law enforcement grants, emergency preparedness grants. There is bipartisan support for funding to upgrade the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, AL.
There is a compromise most of the people on the Democratic side of the aisle didn't agree with, to deny President Obama's request to increase air passenger fees and reinstitute the air carrier security fee.
The Coast Guard needs to continue the acquisition of its eighth national security cutter, which is so important for our maritime security. Republicans and Democrats secured $627 million in the bill for the cutter.
We have all seen how devastating the attacks were against Sony when it was hacked. Cyber attacks are an area of security that former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft called ``as dangerous as nuclear weapons.'' That is why Republicans and Democrats pushed for full funding for DHS cyber security activities.
The increase to the southwestern border of unaccompanied children and families last year is a major concern for States along our southern border--States such as Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. It has been a key priority for a number of my Republican colleagues, and for all of us who are concerned about border security, to meet the statutory mandate of 34,000 detention beds for undocumented immigrants that is required for the Department of Homeland Security.
The clean funding bill includes support for those 34,000 detention beds, and it also includes funding to meet Republican requests to build 3,000 new family detention beds in Texas.
The National Bio and Agro-Defense facility construction in Manhattan, KS, which is an effort to help us deal with threats against our food supply and other bioterrorism threats--in a clean funding bill will receive the final amount needed to begin construction.
Senator Roberts and I talked about this today. One of the things he pointed out is he has been working on this project for 16 years. There is $300 million in this clean, full-year bill. If we don't pass this bill, if the Department of Homeland Security shuts down, if we are in a continuing resolution, then this funding is at risk and they may have to rebid the project, which will drive up costs. That makes no sense.
There was bipartisan agreement to include $12 million for the National Computer Forensics Institute in Hoover, AL, to support the expansion of basic and advanced training for State and local law enforcement personnel, judges, and prosecutors to combat cyber crime.
These important investments in counterterrorism and cyber and border security are not controversial. That is not what we are arguing about here. We are arguing about whether we are [[Page S952]] going to debate what the President did with respect to immigration, and we should not be having this debate on the Department of Homeland Security's funding bill. We can have that debate. I am all for it. I was happy to have that debate when this body passed comprehensive immigration reform 2 years ago, but we should not be having this debate on this bill. The House should understand, just as the Senate understands that. We should not be having that debate on this funding bill for Department of Homeland Security.
We need to come together to pass a clean bill--a bill that was the result of bipartisan negotiation and bipartisan compromise. We have a bill on the Senate calendar to do just that.
I am hearing from communities all across New Hampshire--we are hearing from communities across the country--about the need to pass a full-year funding bill.
Last week the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the International Association of Emergency Managers, and the International Association of Firefighters joined our call for a clean, full-year funding bill because they understand, as I know we all do, how disastrous failing to fund this agency would be. Three previous DHS Secretaries, two Republicans and one Democrat, have done the same.
Earlier this week, the National Fraternal Order of Police joined that call for action.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have the letter from the National Fraternal Order of Police printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: National Fraternal Order of Police, Washington, DC, February 10, 2015.
Hon. Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Hon. Harry M. Reid, Minority Leader, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Hon. John A. Boehner, Speaker, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Hon. Nancy P. Pelosi, Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator McConnell, Mr. Speaker, Senator Reid and Representative Pelosi: I am writing on behalf of the members of the Fraternal Order of Police, and probably most Americans, to express our frustration and outrage that what used to be two greatest legislative bodies on the planet will allow a policy dispute to compromise the safety and security of our country.
The previous Congress made a conscious, political decision to defer action of funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) until the end of this month. I would also point out that is five months since the start of the current fiscal year and that some of our nation's largest and most vital law enforcement agencies and functions are operating without FY15 funding in place. The House passed legislation in spite of a veto threat and the Senate is now paralyzed and cannot even pass a motion to begin debating the bill. The entire process has become farcical and no amount of political spin or blaming the other side is reason enough to jeopardize the integrity of our nation's borders or the safety of the public.
What kind of message does this send to the men and women in DHS who put their lives on the line in defense of our homeland--three of whom fell in the line of duty over the past two years? What kind of message does this send to our enemies? Our current threat level is ``Elevated'' as threats from terrorists and other hostile organizations plan attacks on the United States and our allies. Our Border Patrol and Customs and Border Patrol officers, not yet recovered from last year's surge of minors unlawfully entering our country by the thousands, now must redouble their vigilance against more sinister penetrations. Yet our great democratic institutions are unable to complete their most basic function--providing funding for the protection of our national security. Just more than a decade has passed since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and today political partisanship holds hostage its operational integrity. This is a political obscenity.
I urge you all, as the leaders of this Congress, to work together and to fund fully the Department of Homeland Security. This is what the American people elected you to do and this is your obligation as Members of Congress. If you cannot, you may as well put out a welcome mat for our enemies and others who would do us harm.
Sincerely, Chuck Canterbury, National President.
Mrs. SHAHEEN. Their letter expresses frustration with the fact that a policy dispute over the President's immigration actions ``could compromise the safety and security of our country.'' The letter continues: What kind of message does this send to the men and women in DHS who put their lives on the line in defense of our homeland--three of whom fell in the line of duty over the past two years? What kind of message does this send to our enemies? The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for another 60 seconds.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mrs. SHAHEEN. Congress's most basic function is to provide for the Nation's security. It is time to stop playing politics, to get to work, do our jobs, and pass a clean full-year bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security.
I thank the Presiding Officer.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arkansas is recognized.