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As Shutdown Looms, Delegation Calls For Homeland Security Funding

Taylor Dobbs
VPR file
Congressman Peter Welch condemned the tactic of "holding hostage" the homeland security budget.

Members of Vermont’s congressional delegation are pressing their colleagues to prevent a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security this week.

The department’s funding will stop at the end of the day Friday if no resolution is reached, but Republican leaders in the House and the Senate have so far not allowed a vote on a “clean” budget bill.

The budget itself is not the point of contention, said Rep. Peter Welch.

“Republicans and Democrats are in agreement about the necessity of funding and the levels of funding,” he said. “The dispute is about immigration, and that is a separate issue. It’s an important issue, but members of Congress should not be holding hostage the Department of Homeland Security budget in order to get their way on issues related to immigration that have nothing to do with funding of homeland security.”

The only budget bills presented so far have included provisions that would reverse President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration policy.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said now is not the time to cause problems for the Department of Homeland Security.

“At a time when this ISIS group is bringing forth terrorists acts around the world, and terrorists in Denmark and elsewhere, I think the last thing that you want to do, what would be totally crazy, is to say ‘Okay, we are going to shut down our Department of Homeland Security,’” Sanders said.

"This is another needless, made-in-Washington crisis." - Sen. Patrick Leahy

If an agreement isn’t reached by midnight Friday night, the department will enter a shutdown. In that event, employees considered “essential” would still be required to come to work, but they would not be paid until the situation was resolved. Other employees would not be able to work during a shutdown.

Welch was clearly frustrated with the GOP tactics. He spoke at a news conference Tuesday.

“When I talk to everyday Vermonters,” he said, “they just kind of scratch their heads. You know, ‘What are you guys doing? What is this about?’ and you can’t explain this. You know, ‘We’re going to shut it down,  but not really – you’ve got to show up for work, but we won’t pay you. But then we will.’ And you wonder why people are questioning Congress. I mean, that’s why.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy echoed that sentiment in a statement Tuesday.

“This is another needless, made-in-Washington crisis. Some are willing to hold hostage the security of the American people, as well as dedicated public servants – including 2,500 Vermonters – who work on the front lines to keep the public safe,” he said.

“The solution to this contrived disaster is simple,” Leahy said in the statement. “The Senate should pass a clean Homeland Security funding bill, without political policy riders.”

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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