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Sen. Mark Kirk Should Listen to Sen. Mark Kirk on DHS Funding Debacle

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New Offensive Comments At Odds with IL Voters, Sen. Durbin, Ex-DHS Secretaries, and Even Sen. Kirk

Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and fellow Senate Republicans are facing widespread backlash and criticism in conservative, Beltway, and Spanish-language media outlets for their failures to advance legislation to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Republicans continue to try – and fail – to attach measures designed to block President Obama’s immigration executive actions to a DHS funding bill and refuse to allow a vote on a “clean” bill that would keep the Department funded through the end of the year.  Now, as the clock ticks toward a DHS shutdown at the end of February—an arbitrary and alarmingly close date chosen by the GOP—congressional Republicans are desperately pointing fingers at each other, their leadership, the opposite party, and anyone else they can find to blame for their own inability to “govern responsibly.”

Yet Senator Kirk is taking this in-fighting to a whole new level, battling even with himself over the way forward on funding DHS and who is to blame for the current crisis.  Yesterday, Senator Kirk attempted to (erroneously) blame Democrats for the impasse, doing so in the most offensive manner possible (see his quotes below):

  • National Journal(2/10/15): If Democrats are “cynically trying to restart the government-shutdown battle, they should be blamed directly.  It’s a very dangerous game.  If we have a successful terrorist attack—all the dead Americans from that should be laid at the feet of the Democratic caucus” … “In the end, they have to defend the country. They have sworn the allegiance to do that. They need to live up to their oaths of office.  In the Democratic mind, politics is everything. I would say to them, politics is not everything. If you don’t have a country to defend, what is the purpose of politics?”
  • Politico(2/10/15): “The Republicans – if there is a successful attack during a DHS shutdown – we should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office and say, ‘You are responsible for these dead Americans.’  In the end, eventually the lapdog media – of which you guys are probably all members of – is unable to call it for what it is: just pure politics to try to hurt the Republicans. I think Democrats mistakenly feel a shutdown is a scenario which advantages them.”

Senator Kirk’s are beyond-the-pale offensive and entirely unfitting a member of Congress. Curiously though, they also stand in direct contrast to other recent statements from Senator Kirk (see quotes below):

  • Bloomberg(2/10/15): “Since we’ve been given the honor of running the Senate, we need to govern effectively.  The provisions which are slowing it down are not worth leaving the country defenseless for.”
  • Politico (1/9/15): “I think the defunding action leads us to a potential government shutdown scenario, which is a self-inflicted political wound for Republicans.”

Senator Kirk isn’t just at odds with himself over DHS funding, he is also on the wrong side of Illinois voters, the senior senator from Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), and all former and current DHS Secretaries.  Illinois voters support the immigration executive actions and are strongly opposed to Senate Republicans’ attempts to make DHS funding conditional upon measures that block or repeal executive action.  New polling released yesterday from Public Policy Polling (PPP) found that by a 62-30% margin, Illinois voters support the executive actions (51-35% among independent voters).  And by a 51-38% margin, Illinois voters are opposed to the GOP strategy that conditions DHS funding on cancellation of the immigration executive actions.  

Meanwhile, Senator Durbin has been pushing hard for the Senate to take up a clean DHS bill—one that could actually pass both chambers with bipartisan votes—and end this manufactured funding crisis.  For weeks, he has been taking to the Senate floor to lift up DACA success stories and explain why the GOP’s strategy would be both perilous for the security of the nation and the millions of immigrant families waiting for deportation relief.  As he said last week:

Is it that important to the House Republicans and Senate Republicans that they’re willing to risk funding the Department of Homeland Security…What is it that is holding them up from putting the resources in the hands of Secretary (Jeh) Johnson and this department that they need to keep America safe?

And current Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson was joined by all three former Secretaries of DHS, including two Republicans, in calling on the GOP to stop insisting that homeland security funding be tied to the GOP’s ideological battle against the President’s immigration actions.  In a recent letter to Senate leaders, former DHS Secretaries Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, and Janet Napolitano wrote:

 [W]e cannot emphasize enough that the DHS’s responsibilities are much broader than its responsibility to oversee the federal immigration agencies and to protect our borders.  And funding for the entire agency should not be put in jeopardy by the debate about immigration.  The President has said very publicly that he will ‘oppose any legislative effort to undermine the executive actions that he’ has taken on immigration.  Therefore, by tethering a bill to fund DHS in FY 2015 to a legislative response to the President’s executive actions on immigration, the likelihood of a Department of Homeland Security shutdown increases.  It is imperative that we ensure that DHS is ready, willing, and able to protect the American people.  To that end, we urge you not to risk funding for the operations that protect every American and to pass a clean DHS funding bill.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

Senator Mark Kirk shouldn’t be taking marching orders from Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and the other extremists in the Republican Party whose anti-immigrant obsession means they are okay with shutting down DHS.  Instead, Senator Kirk should listen to every past and current DHS Secretary, his own constituents in Illinois, Senator Durbin, and even his own counsel and ensure his leadership brings up a clean DHS bill that can pass both chambers with bipartisan votes and become law.