WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today served as the vice chair of the conference committee that convened on the FY2019 Homeland Security appropriations measure. Following passage of H.J. Res. 31 last week, the Homeland Security appropriations legislation was formally sent to a bicameral conference committee in an effort to resolve differences between the Senate and the House.
Senator Shelby stated that, “these negotiations must not end with platitudes or future promises; they must yield results that actually secure the border. … As appropriators, we know how to work together on a bipartisan basis and solve problems. That is what we have done for the majority of the FY2019 process, and that is what the American people expect of us now. So I hope these negotiations yield results, and soon. … but I must stress that as long as we remain polarized, we will never resolve our differences on this critical issue for the good of the American people.”
Last week, Congress passed H.J. Res. 28 – a continuing resolution which funds the outstanding seven FY2019 appropriations bills at FY2018 levels through February 15, 2019. This includes the following appropriations measures: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. The Senate conferees who participated in the meeting are Chairman Shelby and Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), along with Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
Senator Shelby’s full statement, as prepared, is below.
“For 35 days Democratic leaders in the House and Senate pledged that negotiations on border security would occur once the government was re-opened.
“With a three-week continuing resolution in place, today we begin - in earnest – a negotiation to resolve our differences on this critical issue.
“Thus far, all sides seem to agree that border security is important.
“That is a good start, but it cannot end there.
“These negotiations must not end with platitudes or future promises; they must yield results that actually secure the border.
“What is necessary to accomplish this goal?
“Our border patrol professionals – those on the front lines – tell us that a comprehensive approach is necessary.
“An approach that includes technology, infrastructure, personnel and physical barriers.
“Smart technology is part of a comprehensive solution, but it is not the solution in and of itself.
“Cameras, sensors, drones and other smart technology highlight the gaps and vulnerabilities along our border.
“In short, they provide a greater awareness of exactly where our insecurities lie along the border.
“But smart technology alone does not actually stop anyone from crossing into the U.S. illegally.
“And if that is happening, our borders are not secure.
“Our border patrol tells us that they need physical barriers to help them do their job.
“Not from coast to coast, but strategically placed where traffic is highest.
“Combined with technology, manpower, and other infrastructure, these strategic barriers comprise a comprehensive solution that is capable of fully securing the border.
“It is a commonsense, all-of-the-above solution to a problem that both parties have said for decades we need to fix.
“Stepping back for a moment, it is unfortunate that this issue has become so politicized.
“That has not always been the case, even up until very recently.
“Just last May the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a Homeland Security spending bill that included money for physical barriers by a vote of 26 – 5.
“There was no partisan vitriol surrounding that vote.
“The Committee simply decided on a bipartisan basis to increase funding for a project that Congress had funded the previous year.
“Since that time, the President has increased his funding request based on the advice of our border security professionals on the ground.
“I hope we heed the guidance of these professionals as our negotiations proceed.
“As appropriators, we know how to work together on a bipartisan basis and solve problems.
“That is what we have done for the majority of the FY2019 process, and that is what the American people expect of us now.
“So I hope these negotiations yield results, and soon.
“And I hope that by reaching a compromise here we will set a tone of bipartisanship for the appropriations cycle ahead of us.
“Chairwoman Lowey, Vice Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Granger and all Members of this committee – I look forward to working with you, but I must stress that as long as we remain polarized, we will never resolve our differences on this critical issue for the good of the American people.”