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GOP Senators Double Down On DHS Shutdown Strategy

Despite Homeland Security Secretaries of both parties calling for passage of a clean funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Republican Senators continue to leave our national security hanging in the balance by pushing bills that have no chance of becoming law.

Though some out-of-touch Senators like Ron Johnson have suggested that a DHS shutdown wouldn’t hurt national security, the facts suggest otherwise. A DHS shutdown could compromise national security and our ability to prevent terrorist attacks; leave thousands of border patrol agents, TSA officers and Coast Guard working without pay; and jeopardize our ability to respond to and prepare for disasters.

“Even as our nation faces unprecedented threats at home and abroad, Republican Senators are more interested in playing political games than they are in funding the Department of Homeland Security,” said Sadie Weiner, National Press Secretary for the DSCC. “Senate Republicans should stop the political theater and listen to the national security experts in their party who have urged passage of a clean bill that would prevent a DHS shutdown.”

BACKGROUND:

Former DHS Secretaries: “The Likelihood of Department of Homeland Security Shutdown Increases” By GOP Tying DHS Funding to Immigration Action. In a letter for Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, former DHS Secretaries Tom Ridge, Janet Napolitano, and Michael Chertoff wrote: “Therefore, by tethering a bill to fund DHS in FY 2015 to a legislative response to the President’s executive actions on immigration, the likelihood of a Department of Homeland Security shutdown increases.” [Letter to Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, Jan 2015]

Former DHS Secretaries: DHS Funding “Critical to Ensuring Our Nation is Safe From Harm.” In a letter for Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, former DHS Secretaries Tom Ridge, Janet Napolitano, and Michael Chertoff wrote: “The national security role that DHS plays, and by extension he funding that allows it to carry out its vital national security mission, is critical to ensuring that our nation is safe from harm. Funding for the DHS is used to protect our ports and our borders; to secure our air travel and cargo; to protect the federal government and our nation’s information, technology, and infrastructure from cyber-attacks; to fund essential law enforcement activities; to guard against violent extremists; to mobilize response networks after emergencies; and to ensure the safety of the president and national leaders.” [Letter to Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, Jan 2015]

DHS Secretary Johnson: “We Can’t Do A Lot of Things for Border Security. Our Counterterrorism Efforts Are Limited” In Case of DHS Shutdown. In a January 2015 interview with MSNBC, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said: “That means that as long as we are on a C.R., we cannot engage in new starts, new spending, new initiatives, new grants to state and local law enforcement to fund homeland security missions. We can’t put in place the independent panel that recommended changes to the secret service has suggested we do. We can’t do a lot of things for border security. Our counterterrorism efforts are limited. And my concern is that we not play political volleyball with our budget. We need an appropriation that is stood up on February 27th so we can go forward with a full year’s appropriations so we can fund these very vital things to homeland security.” [MSNBC, 1/28/15]

CRS: Most DHS Employees Required To Work During Shutdown Were Not Paid During Funding Lapse. According to the Congressional Research Service, ““Of DHS’s estimated 231,117 civilian and military employees, nearly 200,000 were projected to be exempted from the emergency furlough, according to the department. Most of these employees relied on annual appropriations for their salaries, and therefore were not paid during the funding lapse.” [CRS Report, FY 2014 Appropriations Lapse and the Department of Homeland Security, 10/24/13]

DHS Employees Required to Work Without Pay in Case of a Shutdown Include Border Patrol Agents, TSA Officers, and Coast Guard. “According to the Congressional Research Service, “DHS personnel who continue to work without passage of annual appropriations or a continuing resolution generally fall into two categories: those whose activities are not funded through one year appropriations and those whose work is necessary for the preservation of the safety of human life or the protection of property.4 The former generally continue to be paid as scheduled, contingent on the availability of funds, whereas the latter are not paid while the lapse in annual appropriations continues.” Work That is Necessary for the Safety of Human Life or Protection of Property: includes Customs and Border Protection, TSA, US Coast Guard and Others. [CRS Report, FY 2014 Appropriations Lapse and the Department of Homeland Security,10/24/13]

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