WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass a clean, full fiscal-year 2015 appropriation bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Click here to watch the speech.
Below are Ranking Member Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Earlier this week, we learned about the young Jordanian pilot who was horrifically burned alive in a cage at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This is the same group that haunts us with images of beheadings and mass murders week after week, and enslaves women into servitude. And it’s the same group that recently declared that it is determined to ‘reach America.’
“My friends, we live in a world that's scary. And it’s not just ISIL. It's the lone wolves who gather ammunition and equipment, and carefully draft plans to attack us where we work – like the attack we saw last year in Ottawa and the individual from Ohio who was planning to attack the U.S. Capitol. It's pandemics like Ebola. It's the criminals trying to traffic illegal drugs and human beings across our borders and through our ports of entry. It's those individuals trying to sabotage our airplanes and trains. It’s those individuals trying to attack our computer networks and critical infrastructure.
“But thanks in large part to the work of the Department of Homeland Security, Americans are safe. Our airplanes and airports are protected. Our borders and ports throughout this country are secure. Trafficking of illegal drugs and human beings is better controlled. And our critical networks are better protected.
“For anybody to think that it makes sense to put the Department out of business, to put it on the sideline at this time, in this world we live in, I ask: ‘Have we lost our minds?’ I hope not.
“Yet today, here in the United States Congress, we’re locked in a political debate about whether or not we fund that very agency charged with keeping Americans safe from the Islamic State and any number of additional threats. This is irresponsible and shameful behavior.
“In order for the Department of Homeland Security to efficiently and effectively carry out its critical role in combatting the multiple, and ever-changing threats our country faces, it needs fiscal certainty and the full support of this Congress.
“Throughout this week, I joined nearly half of my Senate colleagues to reject the House funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, H.R. 240, which contains riders that block the President’s recent immigration actions. Many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle have significant concerns with these amendments, and the President has promised that he would veto this bill if these amendments are not stripped from it.
“My colleagues’ insistence that we accept these House amendments is jeopardizing timely enactment of a vital and bipartisan homeland security funding bill and threatens to prolong the crippling budget uncertainty the Department of Homeland Security has been operating under since last year. On top of that, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this House bill would increase deficits over the next 10 years by a total of $7.5 billion dollars. So instead of helping our nation move forward with our economic recovery, this bill would move us backwards.
“Look, I understand why some of my colleagues are upset about the President’s immigration policies. We can - and we should – have a debate about those concerns. We started the process just yesterday in the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – where I serve as Ranking Member.
“Let me remind my colleagues that we wouldn’t even be here having this conversation today if Congress had finished the job it began almost two years ago in the Senate. As most of my colleagues in this Chamber will recall, two-thirds of the Senate came together in 2013 and passed by a wide margin a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Was it perfect? No. But it took significant steps to fix our badly broken and outdated immigration system, and to enhance the security of our borders.
“At the same time, the bill would have reduced our budget deficit by nearly $1 trillion over the next 20 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Let me repeat that – comprehensive immigration reform would reduce our deficit by nearly $ 1 trillion over the next 20 years.
“So we demonstrated two years ago that we can debate our nation’s immigrations policies in a thoughtful way here in the Senate. There’s no reason why we can’t do it again. We need to have this debate on the Senate floor, like we did last Congress. We need to have this debate on committees, like we did last Congress. And we need to have this debate in our towns and states across America, like we did last Congress. But we should not have this debate while we are deciding the fate of the budget of our nation’s most critical national security agency -- the Department of Homeland Security.
“And I’m not the only one who thinks so. All three former DHS secretaries- Republicans Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff and Democrat Janet Napolitano – wrote to Republican leadership last week and said the following: ‘We do not question your desire to have a larger debate about the nation's immigration laws. However, we cannot emphasize enough that the DHS's responsibilities are much broader than its responsibility to oversee the federal immigration agencies and to protect our borders…And funding for the entire agency should not be put in jeopardy by the debate about immigration.’
“The Washington Post’s editorial board has also weighed in. Last week, it wrote: ‘If congressional Republicans want to attack those [immigration] actions responsibly, with discrete legislation, they are free to try ... However, it is another thing to wield their frustration over immigration as a cudgel, holding hostage an entire department of government that is critical to the nation’s security. That is as irresponsible as it is politically ill advised.
“I couldn’t agree more. We need to focus now on doing the job we were sent here to do – provide the funding necessary to keep Americans safe in an ever more dangerous world. And once we’ve done that, we should engage in an urgent debate on how to amend America’s immigration policies in the 21st Century.
“If we choose instead to continue down this irresponsible path toward a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, we will actually put America at greater risk. Why would we do that? If we allow the Department of Homeland Security to shut down, here’s what is going to happen:
• Over 50,000 TSA security screeners keeping terrorists off planes are going to go without pay. We want them to do their jobs, but we’re not going to pay them.
• Over 40,000 Customs and Border Protection officers needed to keep our borders secure are going to go without pay. We want them to do their jobs, but we’re not going to pay them.
• In addition, over 13,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enforcing our immigration laws and combatting human and drug trafficking are going to go without pay, too. We want them to do their jobs, but we’re not going to pay them.
“Essentially, a large part of our federal homeland security personnel would be working on an ‘IOU.’ How is that fair? Even if we avoid a shutdown but continue to keep the Department on a continuing resolution, we prevent the men and women who work there from doing their jobs as efficiently and effectively as they can.
“For example, we won’t be able to replace obsolete surveillance technology along high-risk areas of our border. Our nation will have significantly fewer resources to respond to any future surges of unaccompanied minors along our southwest border. Morale will continue to degrade at the Department, which already ranks dead last for morale among other federal agencies. This is not how we would want to be treated, and it’s no way for us to treat the men and women who are working around the clock to keep us safe.
“It is also an egregious waste of money. As we’ve learned over the years, crisis budgeting costs taxpayers millions of dollars, and this latest situation is no exception.
“Employee hiring and research efforts at the Department would come to a halt. Contracts for a variety of security projects would be stalled and will need to be renegotiated at a high cost to the taxpayer. For example, a continuing resolution would delay a $600 million contract to build a National Security Cutter the Coast Guard needs from being awarded. This cutter is critical to stopping illegal activity off of our shores and ports of entry, including illegal immigration and drug and human trafficking. And that’s just one example. As any business owner would tell me, this is not the way to run a business, and it’s certainly no way to run a vital national security agency.
“So how are we going to remedy this situation? Fortunately, we have a solution sitting right in front of us. The bill that Senators Mikulski and Shaheen have introduced, S. 272, is a clean fiscal year 2015 appropriations bill, which both Democrats and Republicans agreed to this past December. This measure provides the stable full-year funding the Department and our national security needs without demanding a ransom.
“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to join me in doing the right thing. Support passage of this clean, full-year appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security. Reject the amendments approved by the House. And then let’s begin a fulsome and badly-needed debate that will enable us to hammer out a thoughtful, 21st Century immigration policy for America; a policy that is fair, that will significantly reduce the nation’s budget deficit, and that will strengthen the economic recovery now underway.”