Ranking Member Fleischmann: Once Again, the Homeland Security Bill Does Not Include Any Funds for Continued Border Wall Construction
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Ranking Member Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03) delivered opening remarks at the FY 2021 Homeland Security Subcommittee Markup.
The full text of Ranking Member Fleischmann’s opening remarks as delivered are below.
“When we embarked on the fiscal year 2021 process in Madame Chair, I don’t think any of us thought this year would unfold the way in which it has. I would like to thank you, Chairwoman Roybal-Allard, along with Chairwoman Lowey, and Ranking Member Granger for the work that has gone into bringing this bill and all the Committee’s bills to markup. It’s really a testament of what we can accomplish working together, overcoming challenges, and fulfilling our commitment to our constituents and our country to do the work of the Appropriations Committee. I am honored to be a part of this process and I want our constituents at home to know despite strong bonafide differences that exist in the bill, as articulated by our distinguished chair the civility exhibited by the members of this committee and subcommittee is outstanding. At a time where we have divisiveness in this country I think it’s very important that we can have the great civil discourse and civility exhibited on both sides of the dais and Madame Chair I specifically thank you for that.
“While we couldn’t complete our hearing process, we were actually able to conduct a few site visits and hearings before we had to shut down normal operations, but even with distancing, we’ve conducted many phone calls with our agencies to keep up to date on what’s going on.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – there’s a lot of broad agreement on so many of the issues and funding in this bill. We hear from many of the same constituencies. We all care deeply about the safety and security of our country, and the people in it, as well as every individual at the Department, as many of the investments under the allocation reflect that shared concern.
“But sadly, also like last year, in the places where we disagree, Madame Chairman, there are vast differences, and I just can’t support the bill in its current form.
“Once again, the bill before us does not include any funds for continued border wall construction and prohibits funds from being used for any wall construction whatsoever. Further, the bill rescinds the entire appropriation provided last year for the wall. I’ve had the chance to visit the border and we’ve heard from the Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, as well as Border Agents and Officers from the front lines. This wall is necessary in so many places along the Southwest Border. It is necessary for the safety for the agents and it is an effective asset against trans-national criminal organizations and their trafficking and smuggling enterprises. The statistics show that where you have a wall, you have no crossings. It works, and I would like to see us continue the program supported by CBP.
“Another area of great concern is once again the funding levels for ICE and the lack of funds flexibility. ICE needs to be able to carry out their responsibilities of detaining and transporting people back to their countries after being issued a lawful order of removal. Further, ICE is the law enforcement agency charged with the responsibility of repatriating convicted criminals back to their countries. We absolutely must fund the agency to allow them to adequately and responsibly do their missions which are set out in law.
“If we could help CBP and ICE with wall funds and enforcement and removal operations, there’s a lot in this bill to celebrate. I thank the Chairwoman again, for all she did for the Coast Guard, the Cybersecurity Agency, TSA, Secret Service, FEMA, FLETC, and the remaining components under the allocation, especially where increases are proposed to address critical needs across the Department. The Department’s mission is simple – protect the nation – and we need to complete this bill to fund and all the components of the Department that are working every day of every week in our communities and on the front lines to keep our people safe.
“Madame Chairwoman, I also thank you for being so accommodating to so many requests for reports, briefings, direction, and dollars on the behest of our colleagues.
“At this time, I don’t have any amendments, but I look forward to next week in Full Committee, where I’m sure we will visit and re-visit some of these issues I’ve highlighted.
“Again, Madame Chair, I thank you, and the members of the Subcommittee. Finally, a sincere note of thanks to the staff. Over the years as an appropriator I have grown not only to respect but also realize the essential nature of the staff. They have worked tireless hours, on both sides, in the majority and the minority and I realize that you’re working hours on areas where we have broad areas of agreement and areas of disagreement. So to all the staff that have helped us put together this bill, thank you. I look forward to working with you and the American people need to know the outstanding job that you have done.”