Durbin Statement On Bipartisan Agreement To Fund The Government

WASHINGTON—Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee on Homeland Security, today released the following statement after voting for the bipartisan agreement negotiators reached to fund the nine remaining federal departments and their agencies.  The bipartisan package rejects President Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall and makes responsible investments in border security long supported by Democrats.

For 35 days, we said to the President the following: if you will end your government shutdown, we will sit down at the table and negotiate a solution on border security.  We kept our word and as soon as the President lifted the shutdown, we sat down for serious, bipartisan negotiations.  And what we came to is a compromise.  There are parts of it I’m not happy with – especially increases in funding for border patrol agents and detention beds – and I wish we had been able to achieve more.  But that’s what happens when you sit down to achieve a bipartisan compromise.

There are elements that I am proud of.  First, Democrats made clear from the start that we believe in smart and effective border security, and therefore pushed for investments that really work to keep America safe, such as technology at ports of entry and Customs personnel.  America knows that we are facing the worst drug crisis in our nation’s history.  And we know that the vast majority of lethal narcotics that cross our southern border come through legal ports of entry.  We said from the beginning, let’s fund technology and personnel that will help stop the flow of these narcotics that our killing our kids.  And we’ve included it in this compromise agreement – a specific high tech border program that I proposed.  This is real border security to address a real threat to America – the opioid epidemic.

Second, we insisted on humanitarian assistance.  Sadly two small children came to our border and died before they could receive the medical assistance they needed.  We don’t ever want it see that happen again.  So we secured funding in this compromise for humanitarian assistance, such as medical assistance, for those that do come to our border to make sure they are treated in a humane way.

Lastly, we rejected the Administration’s demand for changes in our asylum laws that would undermine our legal and moral obligations to provide safe haven to families and children fleeing persecution.  We must turn away from President Trump’s fear-mongering approach to those who come to our border, many of whom are just seeking a better life as many of our ancestors did.  The President’s approach is not representative of the best of America.  It represents the kind of division that does not recognize our heritage, which makes us who we are. 

Democrats were able to secure smart and effective funding for border security in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill, including:

  • $564 million for legal port of entry drug and contraband inspection equipment;
  • $191 million for ports of entry construction;
  • $127 million for aircraft and marine assets;
  • $414 million to address humanitarian concerns at the border;
  • $77 million for countering opioids; and
  • 600 new Customs officers.

The bipartisan agreement also funds eight other federal departments including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury along with dozens of agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.  This includes Durbin funding priorities such as:

Public Servants.  The agreement ensures that public servants and their families will not have to endure another Trump Shutdown and secures a 1.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment for the roughly 47,000 federal civilian employees in Illinois.

Infrastructure.  The agreement provides a $10 billion increase over Fiscal Year 2017 levels for the second year in a row for transportation and housing infrastructure programs.  This includes $1.9 billion for Amtrak; $900 million in TIGER/BUILD grants; $2.6 billion in transit grants; $660 million in rail safety grants; an increase of $500 million for airport grants; an increase of $5.3 billion for highways; $3.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and $1.25 billion for the HOME program – rejecting attempts to significantly reduce or eliminate many of these programs by the Trump Administration.

Securing the Environment.  The agreement rejects damaging cuts proposed by the Trump Administration and conserves and protects our environment by increasing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency to $8.85 billion and providing $2.9 billion for clean water and safe drinking water state grants; $2.5 billion for the National Park Service; and $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Census.  The agreement increases funding by $1 billion to provide the full funding needed to prepare for the 2020 Census.

Public Safety and the Opioid Crisis.  The agreement provides billions of dollars to support law enforcement and public safety, including $303 million in grants to help communities put 1,000 more police officers on their streets; $3.3 billion in homeland security grants to state and local first responders; funding for 1,144 new TSA personnel and 50 new canine teams to keep our nation’s airports safe; $497.5 million for the Office on Violence Against Women; a $13.8 million increase for food safety activities at the Food and Drug Administration; and more than half a billion dollars to help combat the opioid crisis. 

Rural America.  The agreement provides $3.64 billion in rural development funds including more than $1 billion in rural housing loans; more than $1 billion rural business development loans and grants; and more than $500 million to support high-speed internet access in rural communities.

Supporting Science.  The agreement rejects the Trump Administration’s anti-science approach by supporting research and our nation’s dedicated scientists.  The agreement funds NASA at $21.5 billion to explore the solar system and protect our planet; provides $8.1 billion to continue the ground breaking research at the National Science Foundation; and rejects President Trump’s dangerous cuts to climate, weather, and ocean research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Global Commitment.  The agreement provides billions of dollars to combat HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika, tuberculosis, malaria, and other infectious diseases and millions of dollars to support global nutrition programs.  It also includes $527 million to continue humanitarian assistance to Central American countries to address the root causes of people migrating to the United States.