I recently joined with 74 of my fellow House Republicans in voting to fund the Department of Homeland Security. This vote is causing consternation for some. It shouldn't be. It was the right vote to protect our country and to govern responsibly.
Keep in mind that the debate over DHS funding didn't take place in a vacuum. The security outlook for the country wasn't clear skies and no threats on the horizon. This debate occurred while the Islamic State group was continuing its march of destruction and assaulting civilization throughout the Middle East and actively working to recruit Americans and Europeans. It took place contemporaneously with the al-Qaida-linked Somali terror group al-Shabaab issuing a call for a terror attack on the Mall of America. It occurred in the aftermath of terror attacks carried out in the cities of our allies from Paris to Ottawa to Sydney to Brussels.
Given this backdrop, debating whether to shutdown DHS should have given pause. How could it be considered prudent to throw any kind of monkey wrench into the operations of DHS? Shutting down DHS in whole or in part would have been reckless on a grand scale.
I vigorously oppose President Obama's lawless November executive action on immigration. However, opposition to a policy is no excuse to engage in self-destructive, misguided legislative behavior. I appreciate the strong feelings and deep frustration that have inflamed some of my Republican House colleagues. They want to make a strong point about the unconstitutionality of President Obama's actions. That's fair. The Constitution should guide us in this matter. That's why the proper venue to challenge the president's action is in court, not the appropriations process. In fact, a federal court has already frozen the enactment of the president's unilateral and improper actions.
Let's not forget the human part of the question. Many have rightly noted that a large percentage of the personnel employed by DHS are deemed essential. More than 80 percent of DHS workers would have stayed at their posts doing their vital jobs in the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol and in Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
However, they would have been doing those jobs, often dangerous and wearying, without pay. These men and women put their lives on the line for us. They need to be focused on the work at hand. Failing to do so could lead to injury or loss of life. Would it have been right to ask them to be patrolling along the border at night, on the lookout for armed human smugglers or drug traffickers, while not having been paid for a month? Would it have been right to ask them to do their high-risk jobs, unpaid, while the worry of how they were going to feed their families was nagging at their minds?
There is also the obvious question: Was this a good bill? As a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, I helped draft the DHS funding bill in question. The bill was a sound one. It is nearly identical to the bill passed last year with overwhelming Republican support.
The bill passed last week will strengthen our ability to combat and prevent illegal immigration, protect our national security and our borders, and respond to natural disasters and potential acts of terrorism. This bill supports the largest operational force of Border Patrol agents and customs and border protection officers in history, provides a significant increase for ICE detention programs, fully funds the Coast Guard and allocates $7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster preparedness and relief efforts. Congress passed a good bill that will help keep your family and mine safer.
Divided government is a political and legislative reality. Pursuing bad legislative tactics will yield bad policy and political outcomes. Along the same line, self-delusion leads to self-destruction. For example, even if Congress had voted to shutdown DHS, it would not have prevented the implementation of the president's executive action because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services operates on applicant fees. Shutting down DHS would not have stopped President Obama's executive action.
The American people expect their leaders to do their jobs, fulfill their responsibilities and govern responsibly. Moving from cliff to cliff and shutdown threat to shutdown threat is no way to run the federal government. It prevents Congress from addressing the many challenges our nation faces like transportation and infrastructure, tax reform, trade, cyber security, physician reimbursement under Medicare and many others.
And, that's why I voted to make sure the Department of Homeland Security was not shutdown.