U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, spoke on the Senate floor prior to a procedural vote on the End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act, which would have provided money for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Shelby urged the senators “to come together” and “put the bitterness aside.”
The bill was a comprehensive appropriations package containing the remaining seven fiscal year 2019 bills, full funding of the president’s border security priorities, a disaster supplemental and a host of “bipartisan immigration reforms.”
Trump has pushed for the proposal, which he outlined last weekend and is the product of ongoing negotiations to reopen the government.
“Just a few months ago, we stood here on the Senate floor celebrating the progress we had made together in the appropriations process,” Shelby said. “We were all tired of lurching from crisis to crisis amid partisan bickering. Both sides resolved to put aside partisan differences and work together for the good of the American people, and it worked. Together, we funded 75 percent of the government on time. While we would have preferred 100 percent, it was considerably more progress than we had made in decades. Yet we find ourselves here today, more than a month into the longest shutdown in American history. It is enough to give you whiplash.”
Shelby said funding the remaining 25 percent of the government is the task.
“Homeland Security – border security – is the linchpin,” he said. “Are our differences really as insurmountable as they seem? They should not be, and here is why. Last May, the Appropriations Committee considered the fiscal year 2019 Homeland Security bill. That bill included money for a physical barrier at the Southern border. In fact, it included an increase in funding over the fiscal year 2018 level for a physical barrier. Our Democratic colleagues made no attempt to strike this funding, just as Republicans made no effort to strike funding for Democratic priorities in the bill. And the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, a vote of 26 – 5. There were no fireworks or histrionics in the hearing room that day. There was no discussion of delaying the Homeland Security bill until the rest of the federal government was funded.”
“The committee simply decided together on a bipartisan basis to increase funding for a project that Congress had funded the previous year,” Shelby explained. “The fireworks and calls for delayed consideration came later.”
“It boggles the mind how we have returned so quickly to standoff mode – to a zero-sum mentality after making so much progress together,” Shelby stated. “It is particularly perplexing considering bipartisan support is exactly what underpinned the very thing that now divides us so bitterly. Just a few months ago, funding for a physical barrier at the Southern border was part of a bipartisan deal. And now, we can’t even discuss it. That was then; I understand. But where do we go from here? Who is offering real solutions – comprehensive solutions – to end this impasse?”
“The president, for his part, has proposed a serious and reasonable compromise – a comprehensive solution,” Shelby said. “I commend him for that. He is doing what the American people expect: showing a willingness to work together, to find common ground. I encourage my Democratic colleagues to reciprocate.”
“If this proposal is unacceptable, I ask my colleagues on the other side to put something on the table that could help move us off the dime,” Shelby asked. “Work with us – propose a comprehensive solution to get us moving in the right direction. But simply saying no – demanding that we deal with border security later — just won’t do. If not now, when? When will be the time to secure the border? What good will more time, more talking do? The American people have been promised that border security will come later since the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty in 1986. That is why I voted against it as a member of the House. And look at where we are today – still waiting, still talking. The drug smuggling, the human trafficking, the chaos – it’s a real crisis. We know what must be done. Let’s come together, put the bitterness behind us and do what is right for the American people: end the shutdown and secure the border.”
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, voted against the Trump compromise. Democrats have said they want to negotiate about border security only after the government is reopened. Jones did vote for Republican-backed legislation in December that would have kept the government open. Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which supported that initial bipartisan legislation in December. Instead of agreeing to the bill, Trump signaled he would veto the measure, so it ended up dying in the House.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said it was disappointing that Jones voted against the compromise bill to reopen the government.
“It is extremely disappointing to see Sen. Doug Jones vote no to end the government shutdown and secure our borders,” Lathan said. “This bill, proposed by Sen. Shelby and endorsed by President Trump, allowed both Democrats and Republicans to find agreement in their ultimate goals.”
She said Alabamians want the nation safe through strong borders.
“In voting no for all of us, Sen. Jones is bypassing the interests of the people he was elected to serve — especially when he says folks need to ‘compromise,’” Lathan said. “Senator Jones is showing he has no intentions of practicing what he preaches with his no vote for our state. We are grateful for Sen. Shelby’s leadership in introducing this bill and earnestly working to end the government shutdown. Doug Jones’ days in the U.S. Senate are numbered. Alabamians are ready to vote in 2020 to see a Republican represent their values. On this, we will not compromise.”
The partial government shutdown continues. Almost 800,000 government workers have not been paid in nearly six weeks. and 420,000 have had to work anyway.