02.15.19

Senate Appropriations Vice Chair Patrick Leahy Delivers Weekly Democratic Address

“This is what a compromise looks like. This is how the American people expect our government to function: not by tweets, but by reasonable, reality-based compromise.”

Following the passage of a bipartisan, bicameral compromise to fund the government, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) delivers the Weekly Democratic Address, outlining how the agreement reins in the extreme immigration policies of the Trump administration and makes investments in the real priorities of the American people. The agreement includes significant increases in the programs and investments on which American workers, families, farmers and communities rely.  The agreement finishes Congress’s work on the funding promised under the Bipartisan Budget Act, which raised non-defense discretionary spending by $78.5 billion in fiscal year 2019 above fiscal year 2017 enacted levels, an increase of 15 percent, and $18 billion over fiscal year 2018 enacted levels.  It funds the nine remaining federal departments which include: Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, HUD, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury. A full summary is available HERE: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/minority/senate-appropriations-committee-vice-chairman-patrick-leahy-d-vt-releases-border-security-and-government-funding-agreement

Vice Chairman Leahy Statement On President Trump’s Declaration Of A National Emergency: “There is no national emergency.  No one who subscribes to reality can claim otherwise.  Crossings are historically down, billions are being spent on border security, and Congress yesterday appropriated still more.  President Trump simply failed to get a deal to build his wasteful vanity wall.  He failed to get a deal with Mexico, despite promising his supporters more than 200 times that Mexico would pay for it.  He failed to get a deal with his own party, even during the two years when Republicans controlled all levers of government.  And he failed to get a deal now.  The President’s inartful failure to get a deal does not justify him manufacturing a false national emergency.  And it certainly does not justify raiding funds that would strengthen our military and actually prevent drugs from entering and crippling our communities.  The President appears intent on stealing money addressing threats that exist in reality for a national emergency that exists entirely in his head.  How urgent can it be when the President has clumsily threatened to invoke this “emergency” since October of 2018? Over the past two years, we have seen the erosion of our institutional checks and balances in the face of creeping authoritarianism.  The Founders afforded Congress alone with the constitutional power of the purse.  In the days and weeks ahead, the President’s emergency declaration — which amounts to an end run around both the Constitution and Congress — will be challenged both in the courts and in Congress.  The time has come for my Republican friends to take a stand.  President Trump will be but a blip in our nation’s history.  Let’s not forever change the course of the separation of powers in our country simply because the President made a foolish promise he could not keep.”

 Senator Leahy’s remarks as delivered follows:

“This week, Republicans and Democrats from both the House and the Senate came together. We ignored the distractions and the tweetstorms coming from the White House, and we reached an agreement to fund our government and make responsible investments in the American people. This is not the agreement anyone of us would have reached by ourselves. But it’s a good agreement because there are things in this bill that I support, and things I may disagree with, but that’s the nature of a negotiation. That’s the American way. Everyone had to give something to reach a bipartisan compromise. We had to deal in reality, not rhetoric.

“Now Democrats have always supported border security. I came to the negotiations with that in mind. But it has to be smart border security — we have to target strategies that address the real problems facing our Southwest border.  But by standing together, we rejected the toxic and hate-filled immigration policies of President Trump. Our agreement does not force taxpayers to fund President Trump’s wasteful wall, which incidentally he promised Mexico would pay for. It does not fund President Trump’s requested deportation force, and it rejects the unjustified and dramatic increase in detention beds that President Trump would have used to enforce his extreme immigration policies.  

“But just as important as what this agreement rejects is what we were able to accomplish working together: This agreement will increase both Congressional oversight and public transparency of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known as ICE).  We invested hundreds of millions of dollars in new technology to stop the flow of illegal drugs through ports of entry — and that’s where the vast majority of drugs enter our country, despite the President’s repeated falsehoods claiming otherwise. We also provided funds to hire more judges to address the immigration backlog in our country. And we provided more than half a billion dollars to support Central American countries in addressing the root causes of undocumented migration. And we included $400 million to improve medical care and address humanitarian concerns at the border.

“This is what a compromise looks like. This is how the American people expect our government to function: not by tweets, but by reasonable, reality-based work and compromise.

“But lost in this debate over border security were the more than 800,000 public servants and their families who were held hostage by the Trump Shutdown. For weeks now, they have once again lived in fear and uncertainty that their next paycheck may not come because the President chooses to use these Americans as hostages. This agreement ensures these public servants remain on the job doing the important work of the American people through the end of the fiscal year.

“The agreement actually funds the yearly budgets of nine federal departments and all their related agencies. It increases funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, it supports our national parks, and it rejects the anti-science know-nothingism of the Trump administration by supporting real research and our dedicated scientists. It provides the highest funding level ever for the Office on Violence Against Women to support programs that prevent domestic violence, and it provides more than half a billion dollars to combat the opioid crisis that’s devastating our country. It invests in rural America, it secures our interests abroad, it rebuilds our highways, it supports public housing. 

“Now these are just a few examples of the many projects that move our country forward, and they are funded in the six other appropriations bills in this package. This is where the American people invest in ourselves and in our future where they expect Republicans and Democrats to come together.

“The Trump Shutdown was a global embarrassment. It cost our economy billions of dollars, and I am glad that Republicans and Democrats can still be the adults in the room and reach a bipartisan agreement to fund the government and constrain the extreme immigration policies of the Trump administration.

“Thank you, and God Bless America.”

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