Price Floor Statement on Republican DHS Funding Proposal

January 13, 2015
Price Floor Statement on Republican DHS Funding Proposal

“Mr. Chairman, the bill before us today, funding the Department of Homeland Security for FY2015, has been ready for final passage for almost two months. I want to thank Chairman Carter and 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 well. It provides necessary funding increases for the Secret Service to hire new agents for the 2016 Presidential campaign, as well as to make necessary security adjustments at the White House. It provides increased funding for the completion of the Coast Guard’s 8th National Security Cutter, $813 million more in disaster relief funding at FEMA, and funding for NPPD’s efforts to continue enhancing our national cybersecurity capabilities.

“But it pains me to say, Mr. Speaker, 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’ve seen this in middle-of-the-night Homeland Security anti-immigration amendments for two 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, a department that was created to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.

“Members are aware of the horrendous murders of 17 individuals last week in France by terrorists. That 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’s the kind of attack that keeps Secretary Johnson up at night and that 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, three million people participated in unity marches in France. But we are sending a very different message by delaying Homeland Security funding. Here we are, six days removed from a heinous terrorist act, and instead of immediately sending the President a bipartisan bill designed to keep the nation safe, we are tacking on politically charged items that will rightfully ensure a veto.

“Now, Mr. Chairman, some members seem to be under the mistaken impression that departments and agencies make out just fine under a Continuing Resolution. Perhaps some members even believe that it would be okay for the Department’s funding to expire for some amount of time beginning in late February so 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 a department to effectively budget if it has no idea 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 FY15 spending as we consider the FY16 request?

“Ironically, the two agencies that stand to lose the most from this flawed Republican strategy are the very agencies most 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 levels which a CR would reflect. Republicans, however, appear more interested in scoring political points than actually making progress along the border.

“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 will that really play out? Without 60 votes in the Senate, the bill will go nowhere.  Even if the Senate were able to pass the bill with the poison pill riders intact, the President would certainly veto it, with absolutely no chance that the House or the Senate could override that veto.

“So 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 front-line agents and officers at CBP and ICE work without pay?  Would the House majority be willing to let Coast Guard military personnel continue to risk their lives at sea without compensation?  Imagine the outrage 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. And, 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 as it 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 in December.

“I urge defeat of the anti-immigration amendments and adoption of the underlying appropriations bill.”