Lankford Explains How Government Shutdowns Harm Border Patrol
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on YouTube.
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on Rumble.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the floor of the Senate to rally support for his Prevent Government Shutdowns Act, which would take government shutdowns off the table and force Congress to stay in town until their work is done. Lankford pointed out how a potential shutdown would harm our hard-working border personnel. If the federal government shuts down, federal employees will eventually be back-paid, but the federal contractors who are assisting our border personnel would still be required to work—they just wouldn’t be eligible to receive backpay.
Recently, Lankford spoke on the Senate floor to outline the people who are most impacted by government shutdowns, including the Border Patrol agents who will not get paid and have an even bigger strain on their ability to secure the border.
I’ve come to this floor several times over the past many years and several times even recently to talk about a bill that Senator Hassan and I have together that we’ve worked on very hard—to end government shutdown threats forever. This whole conversation that’s happening right now in Washington, DC, about a government shutdown is not something that’s always happened in our
republic. This conversation of a government shutdown’s only really been since the mid-1980s to the present. Before that there were no government shutdowns even when appropriations lapsed, and we had multiple times that appropriations lapsed in the past we didn’t have government shutdowns at that time. But it wasn’t until there was actually an executive opinion back in the 70s that it created this moment to say, ‘No we’re going to end up having a government shutdown if appropriations lapse.’ Well we’re in this moment again. This is a distinctly modern issue in American history that we need to bring to a close of this chapter. And there’s a way to do it.
In conversations that we’ve had for years of how do we actually stop government shutdowns, there’s been very partisan bills on both sides, and Senator Hassan and I sat down five years ago and said, ‘Let’s just have a dialogue.’
How could we stop government shutdowns without having a partisan bill at the end of it. What would be a way to be able to fix this that both sides of the aisle
a could say, ‘That’s a good way to be able to end it.’ We had a very simple goal: end government shutdowns: do appropriation bills. Now that shouldn’t be a radical concept. That should be a head nod from everybody quite frankly in this room to say, ‘Sure we can agree to in government shutdowns and to do appropriation bills on time on it.
Our simple idea was this: if you don’t finish your work during class you have to stay after class to finish your work. It’s just not that hard. It’s something all of us experienced growing up in school. If I can make it even simpler, when my older brother and I would get into an argument, my mom would put the two of us in a room and would say, ‘You two guys have got to go in this room. Once you solve everything, then you can come out. ‘ That’s the genesis of this simple bill.
It says if we don’t have our appropriations work done, we’re still arguing about appropriations, the government continues to function as it has in the past year, exact same budget line, everything continues as normal, the American people are held harmless, federal workers, federal contractors. All of them still continue as they have. But we experience the shutdown here in Washington, DC, not the rest of the country. We would be in session 7 days a week. We could not move to bills other than the appropriation bills, so we are locked in a box to say, if you haven’t finished your appropriation bills, you have to stay overtime to finish those appropriation bills and you can’t move to something different than appropriation bills. You’ve got to be able to do those, but again the American people wouldn’t feel it, federal workers wouldn’t feel it, federal contractors wouldn’t feel it. We would, if we didn’t get our work done.
Why are the Border Patrol agents along the border, why are they being punished for us not getting our work done—because the Border Patrol agents, if we don’t get this done next week, they don’t get a paycheck when they’ve been working overtime hours managing 11,000 people a day coming across the border in chaos that is currently on our border. Those folks have been working as hard as they can, but because we haven’t got our work done on the budgeting, now they don’t get paid. Oh but we’re still asking them to go on the line and to risk their life for their country anyway. That doesn’t make sense to me.
So our simple bill is if the problem is up here then the problem should remain up here, and we should get this resolved but not actually put the consequences on those folks that are serving us all around the nation.
As I came through TSA, flying back to DC as probably most of my colleagues did, coming back this week, TSA agents that I pass by every week—and we have great conversation as I pass by them in the airport every week—and as my bag is being checked and as I’m going through the scanner like every else, the TSA agents were smiling at me saying, ‘Am I going to get a paycheck next week?’ It’s not an unreasonable question for them. All they want to know is: I’m here defending the nation. Am I still going to get paid.
Listen right now on the border right now, they’re being absolutely overrun with people coming across the border. Big numbers, huge overwhelming numbers used to be 1,000 people a day. That was an overwhelming number.
Yesterday there were 11,000 people that crossed our southern border.
They were literally just checked in as much as could be done to be able to manage them and to be able to put them through, but if we have shutdown they’re going to lose some of their support help and we’re going to have even more people just come across the border.
Here’s what’s happening, beginning of any time that the Border Patrol actually come in, check in, they’re trying to manage the number of people coming between the borders. With the numbers that are coming across right now, those Border Patrol agents that should be in the field, that should actually be monitoring what’s happening with the movement of illegal drugs across our border, illegal weapons across our border, all the dynamics that are there—from criminal elements moving across our border between ports of entry. They’re not getting the opportunity to be able to chase those down because they’re processing individuals. The vast majority of our Border Patrol agents, by the end of their time each day are in the station, not on the line. That only gets worse when we have a shutdown and they lose part of their help.
By the way, during a shutdown, non-essential is also declared the recruiting folks, which means we’re not out there actively recruiting more agents to be able to join them to be able to get more help. And there’s more administrative duties being done by Border Patrol that we desperately need on the line, and we are grateful for them on the line.
Last week I got a notification that rail traffic had stopped in Eagle Pass, Texas. Now most folks don’t even know about the truck and train traffic that happens around the country. They just know they go to the grocery store, they buy groceries, they go to the store, and buy clothes and furniture. They just know it’s there, but that’s being moved by a truck driver. That’s being moved by a rail very often.
Last week in Eagle Pass, Texas, DHS shut down all rail traffic there because a thousand migrants were riding the Mexican rail coming up through Mexico. They had climbed onto freight trains and they were riding it all the way to the north—a thousand. But the response from DHS was just to shut the station down entirely. Then they took the CBP folks that were at that station that normally handle legal traffic coming north and south in and out of Mexico in the United States and out of the United States to Mexico they took those CBP agents and they moved them over to driving migrants to different stations for their processing. And so it started out with there was a lot of folks riding the rails to be able to come to the United States, and it ended up being we have so many people here that they literally shut it down. What was the effect of that? We had American train traffic going south into Mexico that was backed up from Eagle Pass all the way to Nebraska before it was said and done.
I was on the phone with Secretary Mayorkas saying we have to get that station back open again. Do we have people legally crossing the border riding the rails? And his answer was no, but those agents were needed to be able to move migrants that were illegally crossing in other areas. The migration that’s happening right now is not only affecting our national security because of the 11,000 people a day that are crossing our border those individuals by and large are not being checked; they’re not being vetted. We’re checking to see if they’re on the terror watch list. Many of them we don’t have a name or an ID or a reliable country of origin other than the one they just tell us is their name or tell us is their country of origin. We have no idea they’re being quickly paroled into the country awaiting a hearing that is often eight to 10 years in the future. Eight to 10 years before they even get to hearing to determine if they’re even eligible to be able to ask for asylum.
This this is insanity, but it doesn’t get better if Border Patrol loses all of its help during a government shutdown—it gets worse.
So, we’ve got to be able to do a couple things at once. We have to be able we have to deal with the real fiscal problems that we have. We have over $2 trillion in overspending this year. That’s a real issue we should have grownup conversations about on this floor. We have to deal with the immigration crisis and call it what it is. When 11,000 people a day illegally enter your country and members of this body just look the other way that’s a problem. And when there’s a national security crisis based on it and we have governors and mayors across the nation crying out to this body and saying make it stop. They’re not Republican and Democrat governors and mayors. They’re just governors and mayors that are trying to manage their towns and their states and they’re saying why isn’t the federal government doing its job. The federal government has the responsibility for managing the border— do it. And we’ve got to deal with the issue of government shutdowns. They hurt us more than help us. It spends more money than it saves, and it dramatically affects a lot of federal workers around the country who just want to be able to able to serve their neighbors or to be able to do law enforcement and actually get paid for it.
And I hear some of my colleagues and others say they’ll eventually get paid. You know what that might be simple for some members in this body that they’re not worried about paycheck-to-paycheck, but there are an awful lot of folks that live paycheck-to-paycheck that just missing a couple paychecks is a really big deal. And all those federal contractors they don’t get back pay. They just don’t get paid at all. So, we can’t just say they’ll all get paid later—they won’t. Federal workers will eventually get back pay, but federal contractors never do, and it really hurts for them. And this shutdown is not their fault it’s ours. So, Maggie Hassan and I just have a simple idea let’s keep working on the problems, but let’s not have a shutdown at the same time. Let’s actually work at our problems in here and not hurt people all over the country who have no way of affecting what our debate is here. They’re just trying to serve their neighbors. That’s what I’m looking for.