ON SENATE FLOOR SHAHEEN HIGHLIGHTS BIPARTISAN PRIORTIES IN CLEAN HOMELAND SECURITY FUNDING BILL
Department of Homeland Security funding set to expire at the end of the monthFebruary 12, 2015
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor this morning to call for passage of a clean bill, free of extraneous riders, to fund Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operations through the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2015. The clean DHS bill incorporates critical increases in funding and support for border security, cybersecurity, the Secret Service and other national security initiatives including complete disaster funding. Currently, DHS funding is set to expire February 27.
Shaheen’s full remarks are included below:
Mr. President, I've come to the floor again today, 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. With our nation facing very real and very dangerous threats - Senator Murphy, who was just on the floor, talking about the ISIL threat, pointed out just what the risks are – it is time for us to put politics aside and to do what's right for the security of our nation.
If we don't pass a full-year bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, we won't be able to make critical investments in border security, in maritime security, and 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 won't be awarded. If we don't pass a full-year bill, we're short-changing counterterrorism efforts and we will put our nation's cyber networks at risk.
Senator Mikulski 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 Republican bill that's a clean 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 compromise negotiations. Not everyone got what they wanted in the bill, but it's 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, and everyone works together to influence the final product. All senators have the opportunity to participate in crafting appropriations bills, and, in fact, there doesn't really seem to be any disagreement about the funding and how it's allocated in the appropriations bill that's 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 that are in the funding bill for homeland security. Senator Hoeven, who chairs the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, that I'm the Ranking Member of, came to the floor and, like Senator Cochran, touted what's in the bill. I've been to the floor and Senator Mikulski has been to the floor many times to talk about what's in the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security and why we need to pass it.
Now, this morning I'd actually like 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 include strong funding for fire and SAFER grants. These are programs, I know the presiding officer understands that because he's been a 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's funding for port security grants, for state and local law enforcement grants, for emergency preparedness grants. There's bipartisan support for funding to upgrade the FEMA center for domestic preparedness in Anniston, Alabama. There is a compromise that 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.
Now, we've all seen how devastating the attacks were against Sony when it was hacked. Cyberattacks are an area of security that former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft called “as dangerous as nuclear weapons.” That's why Republicans and Democrats pushed for full funding for DHS cybersecurity activities.
And the increase to the southwestern border of unaccompanied children and families last year is a major concern for states along our southern border, states like Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. And it's been a key priority for a number of my Republican colleagues, for all of us who are concerned about border security, to reach the statutory mandate of 34,000 detention beds for undocumented immigrants that’s 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, Kansas, which is an effort to help us deal with threats against our food supply and other bioterrorism threats, in a clean funding bill it will receive the final amount needed to begin construction. Senator Roberts came, and I talked about this today, and one of the things he pointed out is he's been working for this project for 16 years. There's $300 million in this clean full-year bill, and if we don't pass this bill, if the Department of Homeland Security shuts down, if we're in a continuing resolution, then this funding is at risk and they may have to rebid the project driving up costs. That makes no sense.
There is bipartisan agreement to include $12 million for the National Computer Forensics Institute in Hoover, Alabama to support the expansion of basic and advanced training for state and local law enforcement personnel, for judges and for prosecutors to combat cybercrime.
These important investments in counterterrorism, cybersecurity and border security aren't controversial. That's not what we're arguing about here. We're arguing about whether we're going to debate what the President did with respect to immigration, and we shouldn't be having this debate on the Department of Homeland Security's funding bill. We can have that debate. I'm all for it. I was happy to have that debate when this body passed comprehensive immigration reform two years ago, but we should not be having this debate and the House should understand that, just like the Senate understands that. We should not be having that debate on this funding bill for the 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. Mr. President, I'm hearing from communities all across New Hampshire. We're 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. And earlier this week the National Fraternal Order of Police joined that call for action. I ask unanimous consent, Mr. President, to place into the record the letter from the Fraternal Order of Police.
Their letter expresses frustration with the fact that a policy dispute over the President's immigration actions could compromise, and I quote “could compromise the safety and security of our country.” The letter continues, and again I'm quoting, “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 members of the Department of Homeland Security who fell in the line of duty over the past two years, what kind of message does this send to our enemies?” end quote. Congress's most basic function is to provide for the nation's security, so it's time to stop playing politics, to get to work, to do our jobs, to pass a clean full-year bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
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