Alabama U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby released the following information via press release on Thursday:
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor prior to a procedural vote on the End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act, a comprehensive appropriations package containing the remaining seven Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019) bills, full funding of the President’s border security priorities, a disaster supplemental, and a host of bipartisan immigration reforms. The proposal, outlined last weekend by President Trump, is the product of ongoing negotiations to reopen the government.
Senator Shelby’s remarks, as prepared, are as follows:
“Just a few months ago, we stood here on the Senate floor celebrating the progress we had made together in the appropriations process.
“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.
“Funding the remaining 25 percent of government is the task before us. Homeland Security – border security – is the linchpin. 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.
“Rather, Madam President, the committee simply decided together on a bipartisan basis to increase funding for a project that Congress had funded the previous year. The fireworks and calls for delayed consideration came later.
“Madam President, it boggles the mind how we have returned so quickly to standoff mode – to a zero-sum mentality after making so much progress together.
“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. 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. 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.
“Madam President, here is the real question before us: Is this the beginning of the end or is it just the end of the beginning? We shall find out.”