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Hudson Valley News

NY Congressional Reps React To DHS Funding Legislation


Six Republican members of the New York congressional delegation banded together for Tuesday’s vote to support funding the Department of Homeland Security through the remainder of the fiscal year. They say cutting off funding in retaliation for President Obama’s executive action on immigration was inappropriate.

Republican Hudson Valley Congressman Chris Gibson says that while he strongly disagrees with the unilateral actions that President Obama has taken regarding immigration, the courts — not cutting off funding for the entire Homeland Security Department — are the most effective way to stop the actions. Fellow New York Republican Congressman Richard Hanna of the Utica area says the House GOP did not have a legitimate reason to hold up DHS funding for an immigration issue that should be left to the legal system.

“And frankly the idea that we would be willing to put hundreds of thousands, I think it’s close to 200,000, people, force them to work who are deemed essential and not get paid on time is wrong and was not in any way appropriate or necessary,” says Hanna. “So I was happy to vote for the bill yesterday, a clean bill. I look forward to watching this immigration issue work its way through the courts.”

New York Republican Elise Stefanik, in a statement, says she does not support government shutdowns, which is why she voted to support the funding. In her 21st district, Stefanik says DHS funding is crucial because of the broad economic importance of the Canadian border, and the need to make sure that thousands of North Country DHS employees are paid on time. Hanna says a block of conservative Republicans tried to make a political and ideological statement.

“What would happen if it wasn’t funded? That’s the real question. And frankly there’s no money in the Department of Homeland Security that funds any part of the immigration plan that Obama put out so there’s… I don’t think it should have been linked in the first place, but it was an opportunity to make a statement over something that many people, including me, are very upset over. But that’s why we have a court system.  And our job is to keep the government running,” Hanna says. “We had one shutdown that I was against and I’m not going to be a party of another one.”

Democratic Hudson Valley Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who had been pushing for the so-called clean funding bill, agrees with leaving the executive action on immigration outside Congress.

“We need comprehensive immigration reform,” says Lowey. “And, frankly, although many presidents have certainly taken executive orders, this executive order of the president is being challenged in the courts and it will be resolved by the courts.”

The six New York GOP congressional members say they support the federal lower court decision that put an injunction on the executive actions and believe it should be upheld. They say they hope to work in a bipartisan way to reform the nation’s broken immigration system through legislative action. Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, called the discussions prior to passing Tuesday’s bill “shenanigans,” referring to the attempt by conservative Republicans to attach conditions on immigration to DHS funding.

“There was no reason that partisan politics had to be introduced into that effort,” Lowey says.

Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, speaking on WAMC’s Congressional Corner, agrees.

“Homeland security money should not be controversial and yet they made it controversial by attaching these riders that said that, that we declared the president’s executive orders null and void," says McGovern. "You want to have that fight?  Bring up your own immigration bill. You control the House and the Senate, bring it up and send it to the White House, but don’t hold up important funding for the security and well-being of this country.”

He says DHS funding is important for reasons in addition to national security.

“And the reason why it’s important for Massachusetts is not just because of protecting our homeland from foreign attack and all that kind of stuff, but some of the emergency monies that come from FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] to deal with these snowstorms we’ve been getting come from the Department of Homeland Security budget,” says McGovern.

Congress last week had approved a one-week funding extension. The DHS Appropriations Act was approved March 3 by a bipartisan vote of 257-167. It funds the Department of Homeland Security through September 2015. Without action, funding would have expired Friday.

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