Ranking Member Carper: Stop Playing Games with the Department of Homeland Security’s Budget

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, took to the Senate floor and urged his colleagues in Congress to quickly pass a clean, full fiscal-year appropriation bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Earlier this week, Ranking Member Carper joined the call for Majority Leader McConnell to pass a DHS funding bill without extraneous policy riders.

Click here to watch the speech.

The speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:

“Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to bring a clean, Fiscal Year 2015 funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible. 

“Earlier this month, the world watched in horror as terrorists massacred journalists and other innocent civilians in and around Paris. In December, we were stunned as computers at a major corporation – Sony Entertainment – were attacked by North Korea. And over the past year, as recently as last week in fact, we’ve witnessed brutal executions at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. These events illustrate all too well that the threats faced by America and our allies are real. As a former Chairman and now Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I know this to be the case. 

“Nearly 12 years ago, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to help ensure that our nation is protected against these continuing and evolving threats. Given the origins of the Department, the work the men and women there do every day to keep us safe, and the grave nature of the threats our country faces, it’s shocking to me that we’re here today having this debate. 

“We’re not discussing ways we can make the Department work better. Senator Coburn and I did that throughout the last Congress, and  Senator Johnson and I did that yesterday during our first hearing on cybersecurity. Unbelievably, we’re debating whether or not to give this key national security agency funding for the remaining fiscal year.

“In order for the Department to efficiently and effectively carry out its critical role, it needs adequate and reliable funding now. Another short-term budget – or, even worse, a shutdown — would be bad for the Department and bad for employee morale.  Most importantly, it would be a threat to our security. 

“Instead of sending us a straightforward, clean funding bill for the Department, the House has unfortunately sent us a bill that includes a number of amendments aimed at undermining the President’s immigration policies. Many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle have significant concerns with these amendments, and the President has indicated that he would veto this bill if these amendments stay attached. Thus, these amendments jeopardize passage of the bill and threaten to prolong the crippling budget uncertainty the Department of Homeland Security has been operating under. The Department of Homeland Security already has a lot to say grace over.  We do them no favors by playing games with their budget. 

“I understand why some of my colleagues are upset about the President’s immigration policies. We can have a debate about those concerns.  But first, we should be doing what we have been asked to do by giving the Department of Homeland Security the resources it needs to keep Americans safe in an ever more dangerous world.

“Two of my colleagues, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Barbara Mikulski, have introduced a clean appropriation bill that mirrors the funding provisions in the House bill. Overall, the funding provisions in their bill, S.272, which I understand both Democrats and Republicans on the Appropriations Committee agreed to last year, provides $39.6 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Homeland Security. That’s an increase of $400 million above last year’s funding. But this measure is more than just a funding bill.

“To my colleagues who want to do what we can right now to protect our country from the kinds of attacks we’ve seen around the world of late, I say, support a clean DHS funding bill.

“To my colleagues who want reforms at the U.S. Secret Service, support a clean DHS funding bill. A clean bill would provide the resources the Secret Service needs to carry out much-needed reforms in the wake of the recent White House fence-jumper incident and other security lapses.

“To my colleagues whose states need to recover from this week’s blizzard or prepare for the next storm, support a clean DHS funding bill. We need to ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and our states have access to nearly $2.6 billion in grants to respond to future disasters, both natural and man-made.

“And to my colleagues who want stronger border security and immigration enforcement, a clean DHS funding bill is what you should be rallying behind. The clean bill put forward by Senators Shaheen and Mikulski would take additional measures to secure our border and enforce our immigration laws – something I know is a priority to me and many of my colleagues. In fact, most of the funding increase in the Shaheen-Mikulski bill would go to border security and immigration enforcement.

“The bill my colleagues have put forward contains a little more than $10 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an increase of approximately $118 million above last year’s enacted level. This funding level would support the largest operational force levels for the agency in its history – maintaining over 21,000 Border Patrol agents and supporting the new funding level for nearly 24,000 officers. The Shaheen-Mikulski bill would also enable CBP to fly more patrols along our maritime and land borders and continue purchasing new force-multiplying gear and assets. It would also increase funding for critical surveillance technologies along our border, especially in high-risk areas like the Rio Grande Valley, by $20 million.

“As my colleagues will recall, last year, our nation saw tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America come to our southern border.  This clean, full-year funding bill would provide Immigration and Customs Enforcement $689 million more than last year’s funding to help address the additional needs associated with that surge. Specifically, it includes $3.4 billion for immigration detention and funds 34,000 adult detention beds.

“The Shaheen-Mikulski bill would also fully fund the employment eligibility verification system known as E-Verify, which helps businesses ensure that they are hiring legal employees.

“Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recently has said, and I agree with him, that to deny his Department  full-year funding would actually hurt our border security.  We cannot continue to default to short-term continuing resolutions and force the Department to cut corners and scramble to fund its highest priorities. As we learned over these years, stop-gap and crisis budgeting is an egregious waste of money. By shutting down the Department or keeping it on a continuing resolution, we’ll waste millions in taxpayer dollars. Let me repeat that. We’ll waste millions of dollars, including the cost of renegotiating contracts, lost employee and contractor productivity, and lost training. For example, it would delay a $600 million contract to build a National Security Cutter the Coast Guard needs from being awarded.

“But there’s more than just a financial impact. The dramatic consequences of failing to provide full year funding for the Department will be felt throughout our country. While most of the Department’s workforce would continue to perform essential functions in the event of a shutdown, the bulk of its management and administrative support activities would cease and frontline personnel wouldn’t receive the support they need. 

“It would be like trying to fight a war without planners, logistics and supplies. It would be like us, Senators, working without our staffs.  We might be able to find a way to get our work done, but we wouldn’t be as effective.

“Those who are required to come to work if a shutdown does occur would not be paid until Congress restores funding.  Essentially, a large part of our federal homeland security efforts would be operating on an, ‘IOU.’

“A stop-gap budget or a shutdown would also further degrade employee morale at the Department of Homeland Security. As many of you may know, the Department continues to rank last among all other large federal agencies when it comes to workforce morale. While Secretary Johnson, Deputy Secretary Mayorkas, and their team are taking important steps to make the agency a better place to work, the Department still lacks a strong sense of cohesion and a sense of team. But Congress too has a responsibility in this effort. Providing this large and complex agency with the funding it needs would be a good start.

“If my colleagues and I expect the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies, to show outcomes, we cannot continue to play games with their budgets and expect them to not feel the negative consequences. No business owner or manager could be expected to be effective and efficient under these conditions.  The leadership at the Department of Homeland Security is no exception. A clean Homeland Security funding bill for the rest of the fiscal year is the fiscally-responsible step to take.

“But don’t just take my word for it. My good friend Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security and a former Republican governor, said, ‘I would be very, very disappointed if I were Secretary, and the Democrats did it to me… It’s pretty difficult to plan long term when you don’t exactly know how much you’re going to have available and what strings might be tied to it. Give them the funding they need.’

“For these reasons, I urge my colleagues in the Senate to join me in doing the right thing and supporting passage of a clean, full-year appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security and rejecting the amendments approved by the House. It would be irresponsible for us to continue kicking the can down the road when it comes to our national security, and we certainly can’t afford to just let this vital agency’s funding run out.

“I ask my colleagues to think about what we’re trying to accomplish by failing to provide the Department of Homeland Security with the funding it needs to operate. American voters sent Congress a clear message on Election Day: they want us to work together and get things done that contribute to our economic recovery. And given recent events around the world, they also want us to do all we can do to keep them and their families safe. We need to show Americans through our actions here in Washington that we hear them.”