Congressional Republicans Continue To Play Politics With National Security
There are 15 days (just 5 legislative days) for Congressional Republicans to agree to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the agency shuts down, and things are not looking good. Senate and House Republicans have been refusing to pass legislation that will fund the department unless it also dismantles President Obama’s recent executive actions that focus immigration enforcement on felons, not families.
Like they have done in the past holding the U.S. economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, and letting the government shutdown because they wanted to take healthcare away from millions of people, now Republicans are playing politics with our national security. Shutting down DHS would have dire consequences. The agency is home to our national security infrastructure, including the Nuclear Detection Office, the Secret Service, Border Patrol and customs officers, TSA, FEMA, and more. Not only would shutting the agency down put our national security at risk, but it would also leave more than 143,000 workers — many of whom risk their lives daily to protect our nation — without a paycheck.
Meanwhile, the president’s immigration plan that is of such concern to the GOP is in fact a big gain for the country on both the national security and economic security fronts. The order allows low-priority immigrants to come forward, pass background checks and apply for deferred action and a work permit, which means fewer people living in the shadows and beyond the rule of law. And under this plan, immigrants would be better integrated into our economy as well: working legally and paying their fair share of taxes would bring in $22.6 billion in new payroll tax revenue over the next 5 years and increase GDP by $90 to $210 billion in the next 10.
The conflict is being driven by tea party Republicans who refuse to pass a clean funding bill — but GOP leadership and other less extreme Republicans refusing to take responsibility and address this ploy deserve equal blame. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), for example, has been on both sides of the debate in just the last two days. On Tuesday, he threatened to build “coffins outside each Democratic office” if they didn’t acquiesce to the GOP’s demands and there was a successful attack during a DHS shutdown. On Wednesday, just after polling found that voters in his state favor the President’s immigration action by two-to-one, Kirk changed his tune: “As the governing party, we should govern. I would think we should just pass a regular appropriations bill under regular order.” (Sen. Kirk is up for re-election next year. Coincidence?)
Other conservatives in Congress may continue to refuse to acknowledge the benefits of the president’s actions on immigration, but a majority of Americans do, according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll released today. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans want Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform rather than overturn Obama’s policies, including 62 percent of Republicans. And more than three-quarters (76 percent) support the policies included in the president’s action on immigration, including a majority of GOP voters.
BOTTOM LINE: There is no excuse for playing politics with national security, especially at a time when our commander-in-chief is asking Congress to authorize the use of military force in the face of increased national security threats. Congressional Republicans have shown that they are willing to do just that. Now in control of both chambers of Congress, Congressional Republicans are trying to use the funding of essential government programs as leverage to deport parents and children.
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