Instead of separating partisanship from governing and ensuring funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) doesn’t lapse, Speaker Boehner has decided the House will only vote on a short-term extension. This means that in three short weeks we can go through another manufactured, 11th hour crisis that could shut down the DHS, threaten the security of Americans and scapegoat the agency’s employees.
This senseless debate started when the House passed its version of the DHS funding bill with unrelated immigration provisions that everyone knew would be rejected by the Senate and the President. Now that the Senate has responded with a deal between Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid to fund this key agency and handle immigration separately, extremists in the House want to force another show down.
Talk about kicking the can down the road. The uncertainty that this creates for an agency and a workforce that fights terrorism and protects our homeland, including our vast transportation network, is simply unacceptable. Every day Transportation Security Officers employed at DHS screen approximately 2 million passengers and their checked baggage keeping our aviation industry safe and secure. DHS also inspects over 47,000 truck, rail and sea containers every day and monitors containerized cargo entering from Mexico and Canada across vast boarders. Local fire departments across the country depend on DHS grants for emergency planning, training, and gear.
Some have claimed that shutting down DHS would not be a big deal. Most of the employees (85 percent in fact) would continue to have to report to work since their activities “directly relate to preserving the safety of human life or the protection of property.” The only rub: these employees would go without paychecks. Morale is already chronically low, among TSOs, and forcing them to report to work without pay – when they are already among the lowest paid of all federal employees – does nothing to alleviate that problem. That’s just great. While politicians pursue their extreme political agenda, DHS employees get to go to work without pay while bills for food, car payments, rent and mortgage, and college tuition are still due.
If this sounds just a little too familiar you would be right. In 2013 House Republican leaders used the same hostage-taking strategy: they shut the government down in an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That didn’t work out so well and we heard promises that the new Congress would govern more responsibly this time around. But now we get to watch this movie all over again.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) summed up the DHS battle this way: “I’ve had it with this self-righteous delusional wing of the party, which leads us over the cliff and they try to do the charge of the light brigade.”