Look, we’ve heard a lot about the shutdown today and we’ve heard a lot about its impacts on families and on businesses and on our society in general. We heard a speech just recently on the floor of the Senate about how Democrats don't want border security — which cannot be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that in 2017 we appropriated $21 billion for border security. For 2018, it was $21.5 billion.
The truth is that everybody that I know of that serves in this body, whether they be Democrat or Republican, wants to make sure that we have our borders secure. The president came in with his budget request last year to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security — which I serve on as ranking member — and asked for $1.6 billion for a wall. And guess what that subcommittee did? And guess what the Appropriations Committee did? We gave him $1.6 billion for that wall.
And then sometime later, the president came in and said "no, I want $5 billion for a wall." and now it’s $5.7 billion for a wall. We had asked for a report on how this money was going to be spent and they sent us a report on how the $1.6 billion was going to be spent — with no comparative analysis on how technology or manpower or anything else to secure that border might work more beneficially to keep our borders secure and be more cost effective for the American taxpayer.
So, what did the president do? Well, 25 times he said "I'm going shut the government down." And guess what happened? The government's shut down. It doesn't take a genius to do that. And now we've heard the stories, and they'll continue — after tomorrow (Jan. 11) when working folks won't get their paycheck — about the impacts on this country, on average Americans who could lose their homes, their autos, not be able to send their kids to school, not be able to afford health care. The list goes on and on. And I ask, is this how you make America great again? Is this how it's done? Because it's not working.
And so, Senator Cardin came to the floor a bit ago and he said, "I want to put up — not show bills — I want to put up Republican bills that this body has already passed and that the House just passed this last week." So that the Senate would do their job and hopefully reopen the government. I think there's enough votes to do it. I think there's enough votes to override a veto. And the majority leader's response was, "no, we don't want to do this. We're going to take up a bill on Israel."
I’m telling you that I am a big supporter of Israel, but I take an oath of office to protect this country first. And we're turning our back on this country. We can continue to have the debate about the best way to secure the border, but it should not be done holding the American people hostage. It should be done by having the debate in this body — the most deliberative body in the world I was told before I got here.
I got to serve with Robert C. Byrd and Richard Lugar and Kennedy and Baucus — the list goes on and on.
But we don't debate anymore. We don't even vote. In fact, we don't even live up to the Constitution's goals for us, requirements for us, whatever you want to call it. We're a coequal branch of government. We shouldn't be asking, as Senator Durbin said, for a permission slip from the president to be able to do our business. Bring the bills to the floor to open this government and vote on them. If they go down, they go down. I think they'll pass. If the president vetoes them, bring them back for a veto override. It is as simple as that.
I wonder what the Forefathers would think today if they saw this body, a shell of its former self. And it's not due to the rules, it's due to the fact that we have a leadership that won't live up to the obligations of this body that they set up to begin with. We've got work to do here. We've got a lot of work to do, and that work starts with opening the government of the United States. If we don't do it — or if we say we're only going to do it with permission from the president — then we all ought to hold our head in shame. I yield the floor.