February 25, 2015

DHS shutdown far too risky | Martinsburg Journal

At a time when our country faces many threats, both at home and abroad, making sure that our Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is operating at full capacity is crucial. This week, funding for DHS will expire and many of the agency's critical operations will potentially come to a standstill if Congress cannot agree on a bill to ensure its full funding. There is no doubt - a DHS shutdown would impact our entire nation, including individuals in West Virginia and in the Eastern Panhandle. That's why I urgently call on my colleagues to put politics aside and pass a clean bill to fully fund DHS.

First and foremost, a lapse in DHS funding would put the security of all Americans at serious risk. DHS consistently works with law enforcement in our local communities in West Virginia and around the country, as well as with partners around the globe, to understand and identify terrorist threats. Additionally, the agency administers critical programs in cyber security, border security, Secret Service protection, disaster response through FEMA and transportation security through TSA. In the event of a DHS shutdown, these programs' operations could become interrupted and vulnerable to cutbacks, consequently endangering the safety of our borders and Americans at home and overseas.

In West Virginia, we would unquestionably see firsthand the effects of a DHS shutdown. About 600 federal employees in our state would be affected by a shutdown, two-thirds of which are in Berkeley, Jefferson and Kanawha counties. These dedicated men and women work for a variety of agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, TSA, Customs and Border and FEMA, and they are on the front lines every day protecting this nation from threats. Many of these workers will be furloughed, and those who are not will be forced to work without pay. It's just unacceptable that we, as elected officials, will continue receiving paychecks for failing to do what we have been sent to Washington to do while our federal workers will go without paychecks as they continue to work tirelessly to protect our homeland.

In addition, DHS gives grants to state and local partners to help keep us protected. Last year alone, West Virginia received $8.6 million for grant programs that support the prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery capabilities, support maritime transportation security, and assist in preparing for emergencies, such as the recent train derailment in Fayette County. Funding for these grants would be cut off if we allow DHS to shut down.

Unfortunately, politics has once again gotten in the way of good governance in Washington. Although I disagree with President Obama's executive actions on immigration, I am willing to take a separate vote to repeal those actions; I believe that we need to pass a clean DHS funding bill that does not put politics over policy. I stand ready to work with my colleagues to secure our border and reform our immigration system, but the DHS funding bill is just not the proper place to do that.

With that being said, I truly believe that we must address our broken immigration system and secure our borders, and that is why I voted for the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill and urged the House to do the same. I urge the Senate to take up the clean DHS funding bill that has already been introduced, and I also urge the House to take up the Senate's immigration bill that we passed in a bipartisan manner last year.

Funding DHS should be a priority for Congress, and we cannot afford to play partisan games with this important agency. We simply should not be willing to hold our Department of Homeland Security hostage over any piece of legislation, especially when this agency does so much to keep us safe. The clock is running out for DHS funding, and we need to move swiftly to pass a clean, full appropriations bill in order to properly protect this nation and our citizens.

By:  By Sen. Joe Manchin