In a 242 to 180 vote, the House Wednesday passed the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 240) with controversial amendments that could sabotage the funding bill in the Senate.
Both Democrats and some senior Republicans had stated they would not vote for the bill if the amendments were attached.
Nevertheless, the package passed despite bipartisan opposition to amendments to defund the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and other executive orders related to immigration some of the more ultra-right wing members of the House wanted attached to the bill, as well as warnings it will stall in the Senate, where it faces stiff opposition and isn’t likely to get the 60 votes needed. And even if it were somehow passed by the Senate, President Obama has indicated he’d veto it.
DHS is currently funded through February 27 at the Fiscal Year 2014 spend rate of $39.270 billion under the 1,600-plus page Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (HR 83) passed in December. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson scolded Congress for not fully funding the department.
The FY 2015 funding level is set at $39.7 billion and would fund DHS for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The $39.7 billion in discretionary funding for the department is an increase of $400 million compared to the FY 2014 enacted level. The bill prioritizes operational, counterterrorism and threat-targeting activities and essential tactical equipment, “and saves taxpayer dollars by reducing overhead costs and cutting funds for lower-priority programs.”
But, the "Poison Pill" amendments attached to the funding bill don’t bode well for the DHS funding package.
The amendments would prevent "any funds from whatever source to be used to carry-out the executive actions announced on November 20, 2014 to grant deferred action to certain unlawful aliens and for other purposes, and four of the [Department of Justice] memos on prosecutorial discretion and immigration enforcement priorities issued in 2011 and 2012 that effectively prevent certain classes of unlawful aliens from being removed from the country."
It also, "declares that no funds may be used to carry-out any substantially similar policies to those defunded; declares that the policies defunded and any substantially similar policies have no statutory or constitutional basis and therefore no legal effect;" and, "Provides that no funds may be used to grant any Federal benefit to any alien as a result of the policies defunded."
It also "provides that no funds may be used to consider new, renewal or previously denied DACA applications" and "requires that DHS treat any alien convicted of any offense involving domestic violence, sexual abuse, child molestation, or child abuse or exploitation as within the categories of aliens subject to DHS’s highest civil immigration enforcement."
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security said Tuesday, “Just over onemonth ago, I stood on this floor urging the majority to allow members of this chamber to fund the Department of Homeland Security in the Omnibus [a patchwork bill that funded DHS through February]. The majority did not listen. In the past month, even as the majority plotted to punish the department for the President’s action on immigration, a series of terrorist incidents across the globe have brought into sharp focus the need for a fully-funded and fully-functioning DHS.”
“First, in Sydney, Australia, we witnessed a terrorist attack on a cafe where, at the end of a lengthy standoff, two innocent people laid dead. The crippling cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment’s network raised awareness of the damage that hacks can do. Then, last week, in Paris, there were a series of terrorist attacks that have sent shockwaves beyond the borders of France,” Thompson said on the House floor.
“The execution-style murders of 12 members of Charlie Hebdo’s creative team followed by the indiscriminate killing at a Jewish Supermarket are not simply tragic incidents. They serve as a reminder that the terrorist threats we face are evolving, and they are evolving quickly,” Thompson said, stressing that, “As embers of Congress, we have the responsibility to give the Department of Homeland Security the resources it needsto be dynamic and agile in its response to these evolving threats. The underlying DHS appropriations bill under consideration today – although not perfect – could certainly pass both chambers and be enacted into law with the President’s signature.”
“However, the likelihood, dare I say inevitability, that one or more of the poison pill amendments that the rules committee approved will get attached ensures that the DHS shutdown showdown continues,” Thompson warned. “And to what end? The majority decries the administration’s immigration actions, but offers no solution or alternative of its own. Instead, it plays and replays the game of: will we or won’t we fund the government? This game of chicken has run its course. It is time to provide full-year funding to DHS so it can continue its critical mission.”
“The House majority leadership should have included a clean homeland security funding bill in last year’s ‘CROmnibus,’ but chose instead to play partisan games, delaying funding needed by DHS border and aviation security agencies, the Secret Service, Coast Guard and many more,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), ranking democrat on the House Committee on Appropriations.
“Now the farce continues with poison pill amendments related to the President’s executive actions on immigration, which will clearly prevent enactment of the underlying bill,” she continued. “This political game has a real and negative effect on critical agencies working to prevent and respond to emergencies and terrorist attacks like those in France last week. I urge Republican leaders bring a clean appropriations bill to the floor, without poison pill amendments, that invests appropriately in our homeland security."
California Democrat Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a member of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said she supports “the original bipartisan homeland security bill and oppose the majority’s radical anti-immigrant amendments,” saying, “These amendments pollute the bipartisan bill Republicans and Democrats have carefully crafted to protect the American people. Our clean homeland security bill provides the funds needed to protect our country. It invests in border security and prioritizes the detention and deportation of dangerous criminals.”
“The clean, bipartisan homeland security bill,” she stated, “provides funds for new grants to state and local first responders, who are our first line of defense against home-grown terrorism. It invests in the Coast Guard’s eighth National Security Cutter and additional Fast Response Cutters to help protect our ports. The bill also provides critical funds to hire new Secret Service agents and to make essential security improvements at the White House.”
“These are just a few examples of why this bill is so important,” Roybal-Allard continued. “Unfortunately, instead of bringing the clean, bipartisan bill for a vote, the majority is proposing several poison-pill amendments that will jeopardize the bill’s ability to become law. It is unconscionable to put our nation’s security at risk simply for the purpose of appeasing those who want to undermine President Obama’s reasonable and lawful executive action to fix our broken immigration system in light of the fact that this House has not acted.”
“Current funding for DHS is set to run out at the end of February,” she emphasized, pointing out that, “The recent horrors in Paris are the latest reminder of why America needs Congress to pass the negotiated bipartisan homeland security bill that can become law, and defeat the anti-immigrant poison-pill amendments being proposed by the majority.”
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International (AFA) President Sara Nelson joined in, saying in a statement, "We join the House democratic leadership in calling for a clean funding measure for critical DHS national security and safety programs through the end of the fiscal year. Flight Attendants usher members of our military to fight for our country’s freedoms while Republicans are attacking military spouses at home through radical immigration policy riders. This is wrong and irresponsible. A week after a terrorist attack in France, and a tumultuous time of rising terrorism, now is not the time to play political games with our nation’s security. AFA is calling on Congress to keep immigration out of this fight and pass a clean funding bill that will allow DHS to continue its work to keep airline workers and passengers safe."
Meanwhile, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), said, “Texans – and the majority of Americans – have cried out against the president’s unilateral and unconstitutional immigration actions this past November. They are not interested in this president’s extreme agenda. They want policies that protect public safety, support the American worker, increase border security, and uphold our rule of law."
“That is why I support legislation the House plans to vote on this week. It would both defund the unconstitutional immigration actions the president took last November and many of the President’s policies that provoked the deadly surge at our Southern border last summer," Smith said. "I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to join us in strong support of this legislation.”
“The funding in this bill is targeted to critical security and law enforcement efforts that keep our nation and people safe, and ensure the laws of the land are strongly enforced,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). “This is a responsible bill that makes the most out of each dollar – making the necessary investments to harden our borders, protect against terrorism, and respond and recover from natural disasters – while finding ways to save wherever possible. As the last bill of the 2015 appropriations process, it is high time we get this legislation enacted into law to strengthen our homeland security efforts, ensure our personnel are well equipped and trained, and maintain our readiness for any threats that may come our way.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said in a statement that, “I welcome the news that the House Appropriations Committee has acted promptly by offering a bill that will provide full fiscal year operational funding for the Department of Homeland Security. In light of recent events around the world, we are reminded again that the department needs fiscal certainty and full support from Congress so that it can continue to effectively carry out its role in keeping Americans safe and combating the complex and ever-changingthreats that our country faces. While I am still reviewing this bill, it appears that this measure, if passed, will provide the department with the critically important financial certainty it needs and currently lacks.”
However, Carper earlier warned that he’s concerned about the amendments I understand could be offered to this bill on the House floor. It would be irresponsible to use the budget for a vital national security agency, like the Department of Homeland Security, to launch political attacks on the President’s immigration policies, particularly after failing to tackle comprehensive immigration reform last Congress. I urge the House of Representatives to pass a clean funding bill without controversial amendments that would jeopardize full year funding for this important department.”
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – The bill contains $10.7 billion for CBP, an increase of $118.7 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. This funding level would support the largest operational force levels in history – 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 23,775 CBP officers. Funds also are provided to test a biometric exit mobile application, to ensure around-the-clock surveillance of air, land and sea approaches to the border and to maintain no less than 95,000 operational flight hours.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – The bill provides $5.96 billion for ICE, an increase of $689.4 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. This includes $3.4 billion for ICE detention programs, a significant increase above the budget request to sustain 34,000 detention beds and to increase family detention by 3,732 beds. The bill also includes $1.9 billion for both domestic and international investigations, including increases in funding to combat human trafficking, child exploitation cyber crime, drug smuggling and to expand visa vetting capabilities. The bill also would fully fund the E-Verify program.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – TSA funding will be decreased by $94.3 million below the $4.8 billion FY 2014 enacted level. The bill earmarks funding for passenger security, cargo inspections, intelligence functions, Federal Flight Deck Officers and increases funding for canine detection teams and privatized screening operations. The bill also rescinds more than $202 million in unobligated balances from TSA and continues to reform passenger screening operations by capping full-time screening personnel at 45,000, which will reduce TSA’s federal screener workforce as TSA shifts to more risk-based screening.
Cybersecurity – $753.2 million is requested for cybersecurity operations in the National Programs and Protection Directorate to sustain improvements to the Federal Network Security and Network Security Deployment programs to thwart cyber attacks and foreign espionage.
US Coast Guard – Proposed funding is set at $10 billion, which is a decrease of $159 million below last year’s level and $439.5 million above the President’s request. The funding would sustain military pay and allowances and “denies the President’s proposed cuts that would have gutted vital Coast Guard operations.” Targeted increases are for cutter and aviation operating hours, training and maintenance; acquisition of the eighth National Security Cutter; two Fast Response Cutter patrol boats; an additional C-130J aircraft; one H-60 remanufactured helicopter; “and urgently needed upgrades to family housing.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency – The bill would provide $7 billion for disaster relief, which would fully fund FEMA’s stated requirement. The bill also would provide a total of $2.5 billion for first responder grants, the same as in Fiscal Year 2014 and $304 million above the President’s request. $1.5 billion is earmarked for state and local grants; $680 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants; and $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.
Research and Development – The already short-funded Science and Technology Directorate will be shorted once again. The bill provides $1.1 billion, which is $116.3 million below the FY 2014 enacted level, but $32.1 million above the President’s request. The committee said this “level sustains investment in high-priority research and development efforts that will advance the nation’s security, including $300 million in funding for the construction of the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility.”
The also requires DHS to “submit comprehensive spending plans to Congress to increase transparency and congressional and public oversight over the use of taxpayer dollars.” It also directs submission of reports detailing acquisition efforts throughout the department.