McCaskill to Republican Leaders Threatening Homeland Security Shutdown: You’re in Charge of Immigration Debate

‘If you want to debate immigration, have us debate immigration… but don’t shut down Homeland Security’— As funding deadline looms, McCaskill urges Republicans to offer clean bill needed to maintain national security

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today took to the Senate floor and called out the continued effort of Congressional Republicans to “play politics” with national security as a funding deadline looms for the Department of Homeland Security, and urged passage of a clean bill to maintain U.S. counterterrorism efforts.  

“Republicans are in charge,” said McCaskill, a senior member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in a Senate floor speech. “So all they have to do is present a clean funding bill for Homeland Security, and the very next day take up immigration reform and debate it. But they are trying to play a political trick, and trying to make it look like somehow their disagreement with the President on immigration trumps the protection of our country… this body passed immigration reform with a wide margin, with many of my Republican colleagues voting for it. And the bill we passed here was amazing in terms of border security. But Speaker Boehner wouldn’t take it up. For more than 18 months Speaker Boehner wouldn’t even allow it to be debated on the floor of the House.”

The current Republican funding bill contains controversial immigration policy riders that stakeholders agree stand no chance of reaching the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the Senate and which are under veto threat from President Obama, opening up the Homeland Security Department to a potential shutdown.

“As countries around the world have united in their opposition to ISIS and the barbarians that are participating in ISIS activity, all of our allies and some who haven’t traditionally been our allies are beefing up their cyber security, their border security, beefing up their homeland security, their airport security, adding more resources… talk about a mixed signal; [Republican leaders are] threatening to shut ours down… to score political points.”

McCaskill concluded: “This is exactly the nonsense that frustrates Americans. Threatening to shut down a vital part of protecting our country in the name of politics. So, the notion that the senior Senator from Texas, the Assistant Majority Leader just said that we were denying a debate, that’s absurd on its face. We debate whatever the Republican Party wants us to debate now. They’re in charge. So step up, fund Homeland Security and move on to an immigration debate. You’ll find a lot of willing partners trying to find a way forward. But not with this gamesmanship. It isn’t going to happen. It isn’t going to happen because Homeland Security is too important. Especially at this moment in our history.”

McCaskill last week joined 44 of her Senate colleagues in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for a clean funding bill for DHS for the remainder of the fiscal year, in order to avoid a shutdown. The current Republican funding bill contains controversial immigration policy riders that stakeholders agree stand no chance of reaching the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the Senate and which are under veto threat from President Obama, opening up the Homeland Security Department to a potential shutdown.  

“In light of recent events in Paris, Ottawa and Australia, the threat of ISIS and the proliferation of foreign fighters that return home radicalized, DHS funding should not be tied to divisive political issues that could jeopardize this critical funding,” the Senators wrote in their letter.

The Senators urged McConnell to “immediately schedule a vote” on the clean, bipartisan compromise funding bill that House and Senate negotiators reached in December, which would fund DHS for the entire fiscal year. Homeland security funding supports DHS and its related agencies, including Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, among others.

A bipartisan group of former Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security—Republicans Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, and Democrat Janet Napolitano—have also joined the effort to call on Republicans to pass a clean Homeland Security funding bill.

Visit McCaskill.senate.gov/Defense for highlights of McCaskill’s work to protect our national security

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