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John C.
Republican TX

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  • Department of Homeland Security Funding

    by Senator John Cornyn

    Posted on 2015-02-04

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    CORNYN. Mr. President, yesterday our friends across the aisle blocked--filibustered, really--a $40 billion funding bill that would have paid the funds necessary to keep the Department of Homeland Security running through the rest of this fiscal year. I understand they had some differences over the content of the legislation the House passed, but it is undeniable that the House acted responsibly by passing this appropriations bill, particularly at a time of heightened security concerns not only here at home but around the world.

    Of course, the part that I guess confused me the most is our Democratic friends said: Well, we don't want to debate the bill, but what we want is a clean DHS appropriations bill. So they wanted to get to the end of the process without even starting the process, which strikes me as odd.

    As I pointed out last week during the Senate debate on the Keystone XL Pipeline, Senator Durbin from Illinois, the assistant minority leader, spoke very sincerely in support of a process surrounding that bill. We didn't all agree that the Keystone Pipeline should be passed, but we did at least have an open amendment process that allowed everyone to express their point of view and to get votes on amendments, up or down, before concluding that piece of legislation. I think the most notable part of that was that we actually had more votes in the Senate during the 3 weeks we were on the Keystone XL Pipeline than we had all of last year under the previous management.

    So it was amazing to me to see that the Democratic leadership--the Senate minority--worked so hard to marshal their caucus together to block debate on this $40 billion appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, especially considering the [[Page S753]] promise of the Senator from Illinois to continue to work with us to foster an open debate process and an open opportunity on both sides of the aisle to offer good ideas and to put them up for a vote on how to improve legislation.

    It was also amazing to see this outcome considering what so many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle said last fall when the President made his Executive action on immigration.

    As I said yesterday--and I want to repeat it again--we are not upset with people who are seeking a better life in the United States. All we are asking for is a legal process. We are very upset with the President violating his oath of office and purporting to make unconstitutional Executive orders. That is the problem. That is what the House is focused on like a laser.

    In fact, this President's actions were a stunning display of Executive overreach. You don't have to take my word for it; take his word for it--at least the first 22 times he talked about it. He said he didn't have the authority to do it 22 different times.

    Then there is the view of some of our colleagues in the minority. For example, the senior Senator from West Virginia put it simply last November when he expressed, I think, the feeling of a lot of Democrats when he said, ``I wish he wouldn't do it.'' This was echoed also in a very straightforward manner by the very junior Senator from Minnesota, who said, ``I have concerns about executive action.'' Of course, it is easy to understand why because this is a uniquely legislative responsibility. The President doesn't have authority to make laws on his own--at least that used to be his position.

    Then the senior Senator from Missouri said of the President's unilateral action: ``How this is coming about makes me uncomfortable, [and] I think it probably makes most Missourians uncomfortable.'' Well, the public opinion polls I have seen bear that comment out, that while many people think we do need to fix our broken immigration system, the majority of people in the public opinion polls I have seen disagree with the way the President has tried to act by doing this unilaterally--or purporting to do it unilaterally.

    Well, I have good news for Senator McCaskill, Senator Franken, and Senator Manchin. The House of Representatives has actually passed a piece of legislation that addresses their concerns and should give them some comfort.

    The legislation on which we are trying to open debate fully funds, as I said, the Department of Homeland Security while reining in the President's unconstitutional actions. This is one of the tools available to Congress--using these legislative riders on appropriations to in effect express disapproval and defund certain acts by the Executive. That is one of the tools we have available to us.

    I will renew my request from yesterday to Senator Reid, the Democratic leader, and ask the assistant minority leader to honor his commitment that he made when we were debating the Keystone XL Pipeline. Please work with us to achieve at least debate on the floor, if not some significant legislation. But to just throw a fit and say ``We refuse to even start debate on the legislation'' strikes me as more of a political move than a legislative solution.

    So I would ask my friends on the other side of the aisle, who so boldly stood up to express their concerns with the President's Executive actions only a few short months ago, to again stand up--this time to their own leadership--and to join us in reining in the President's Executive overreach and to not hold hostage the $40 billion the House has appropriated to help fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year, through September 31.

    If there are parts of the House bill you don't like--and there are parts of the House bill that I have concerns over and that I hope we have a chance to vote on, but that is the way the House and the Senate are supposed to relate to one another. The House passes legislation, the Senate passes legislation, and if they are different, then they get reconciled in a conference committee or through a ping-pong back-and- forth before they go to the President. But to throw a fit and say ``We refuse to do our job of legislating'' just because they don't like where we are starting is extraordinarily counterproductive and is an unfortunate return to the dysfunction I believe the voters repudiated in their vote on November 4. So we will see whether there is a different point of view.

    I know the majority leader, Senator McConnell, will come back to the floor and ask to reconsider the vote from yesterday, and so there will be another opportunity for our friends across the aisle to reconsider their vote blocking even beginning considering this legislation. I hope they will reconsider and join us and try to come up with a consensus solution.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Ernst). The Senator from Missouri.

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