Mikulski’s Floor Statement on the Need to Pass a Clean DHS Funding Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to take up and pass the clean Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations funding bill (S. 272) that she and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced last week.
The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as delivered:
“I come to the floor to call for a vote against the motion to proceed to H.R. 240, the House’s Department of Homeland Security funding bill. Now, this is a shock for me to be the one to call for a vote against a motion to proceed on an appropriations bill.
“For the last two years I’ve been on the floor speaking out, pounding the table, saying, ‘Let’s bring up bills. Let’s bring them up one at a time.’ So, why am I on the floor asking for a vote against the motion to proceed on the homeland security funding bill, now? Well, I can tell you: it’s because the homeland security bill has two parts.
“One part is an essential bill – the funding for the Department of Homeland Security – which I hope we get to as expeditiously as possible. But they also have another component to this bill: poison pill riders – five riders from the House of Representatives designed to attack the President on immigration. These riders, if passed, will guarantee that the President will veto the bill and we’ll be back to parliamentary ping pong. We posture and pomp and vote, send it to the President, he’ll veto it, and then we’ll get into more posture and pomp and partisan points. For what?
“We need to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Yes, we do need to deal with immigration, but the Senate passed an immigration bill. Rather than attacking the President, let’s attack the problems of immigration. Let’s deal with the DREAMers. Let’s deal with getting people out of the shadows and into the sunshine.
“This institution, both the House and the Senate, under Republican control criticizes the President for not acting, ‘Where is leadership? Where is leadership?’ And then when the President does act, like he did on immigration, they want to punish him by adding poison pill riders to an essential, essential national security bill.
“Colleagues on the other side of the aisle say, ‘Why are you seeking to delay the funding bill?’ I’m not seeking to delay the funding bill. I’m asking that we consider a clean bill and just vote on the money part.
“All of my Democratic colleagues and I wrote a letter to the Senate Majority Leader Senator McConnell asking him to schedule a vote on a clean homeland security bill. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the Ranking Member on the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, and I introduced a clean DHS funding bill last week. We could do that bill now. We could pass that funding today, reserving the debate on immigration for another day and calling upon the House to do their job.
“But right now I want all of the wonderful men and women who work at the Department of Homeland Security to be paid for the work that they do. We need them. We need them in cybersecurity. We need them searching out the perpetrators of lone wolf attacks. Weren’t we proud of the brilliant job our homeland security leadership provided to protect all of the people who so enjoyed the Super Bowl?
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. In my own home state, as well as in every state with coastal area, we’re dependent on the Coast Guard carrying out search and rescue missions and protecting us against drug dealers, illegal fishing and terrorists. And what about our border patrol working on our Southern border every single day in dangerous circumstances? Don’t they deserve our respect and the resources that they need and the pay that they have earned?
“Let’s get with the program. The program is to protect America, not to protect a political party and its partisan points on immigration. Our job is to protect the homeland of the United States of America. I’m adamant about this. We are now four months into the fiscal year. We could be heading for what I hope is not another continuing funding resolution. We need to stand up for America.
“Americans are in danger at home and abroad. We do face terrorist threats. We do face cyber criminals. The Secret Service is reforming itself and needs the resources to do so correctly. We have fence jumpers at the White House and drones over the White House fence.
“And yet we’re going to dicker over five poison pill amendments. Let’s clean this out. Let’s vote against the motion to proceed today. Let’s come back with the clean bill that Senator Shaheen and I introduced. The money was agreed upon on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the dome.
“In the closing hours of the fiscal year 2015 debate, working hand in hand with Senator Dan Coats (R- Ind.), we fashioned a bill here in the Senate, and we’ve got it agreed upon in the House. So we could do our job, so that homeland security can do its job. Defeat this ill-conceived motion to proceed. Let’s proceed to a clean bill. Let’s protect America and then get on with other important debates.”