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Congressman Jason Smith

Congressman Jason Smith

A Missed Opportunity

President Trump agreed to reopen the government three weeks ago and gave Congress the opportunity to finally address the security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border. Unfortunately, the solution Congress came up with this week fell short of securing the border and was wholly inadequate to provide for the safety of American citizens.

When I was digging into the details of the spending bill, I found numerous landmines that I couldn’t support. The ‘agreement’ contained just over $1 billion of the $25 billion President Trump originally requested to secure the border. Getting 1/25th of what you want could only be considered a win in Washington, but what’s even worse is the money that we did get for physical border security came with serious strings attached. There are numerous loopholes allowing local municipalities to opt out of building a wall, even where border officials on the ground say one is needed. And it included a pay raise for every single federal employee to the tune of $3.6 billion, without considering if they’re any good at their jobs or provide any value to the taxpayer. I’m glad the government won’t be shutting down again, but Congress should have delivered a better deal to President Trump.

Congress has seen this deadline coming and has failed to secure our border for over a year now. Last March I voted against the spending bill because it increased government spending but didn’t provide the necessary funds for physical barriers. I said we should tackle the issue head-on now instead of kicking the can down the road again. Unfortunately, I had to say the same again in September, December, two weeks later in December, and when we voted on the continuing resolution to reopen the government three weeks ago. I was thrilled when we passed a bill out of the U.S. House in December that fully funded President Trump’s request for a border wall, and dismayed when it never received a vote in the Senate. Washington continues to do what it does best and punts today’s problems into tomorrow.

When Speaker Pelosi took the gavel six weeks ago, she promised she would be “ushering in a new era of clean government” and creating a “professionally run Congress that would be more transparent.” One of the rules her Democrat majority passed required posting every piece of legislation 72 hours in advance, “so Members of Congress have time to read the major bills they’re voting on.” It sounds nice on paper, but the reality under Speaker Pelosi has been a very different story: this spending bill was the sixth time in six weeks that Speaker Pelosi broke her own rules and rammed a major spending bill through the U.S. House without giving Members of Congress time to read what they’re voting on. The final 1,200-page bill text wasn’t available to lawmakers until the early hours of the morning, and a vote was scheduled that gave Members of Congress fewer than 20 hours to read the legislation which directs hundreds of billions in government spending and affects every American citizen.

Left with no choice from Congress, this week President Trump acted within his authority and declared the crisis at our southern border a national emergency, meaning wall construction can begin almost immediately. The emergency declaration is simply a statement of fact. 60,000 people attempt to illegally enter our country at the southern border every month. Border patrol agents have seen a massive spike of families and young children making the deadly journey to our southern border. And 90% of the illicit drugs that kill 300 Americans a week enter our country through Mexico.

The President has been saying the situation at the border is a crisis for years now. While ultimately Congress should have solved this problem long ago, I support President Trump’s actions to secure the border. The stakes are too high to let Congressional dysfunction stand in the way of national security.