HIGGINS: Cloture Rule Is Obstruction To Wall Funding, Reason Shutdown Looms

Another year, another shutdown fight. This instance just as unlikely as the last to advance any measure of budget stability or border security. The Senate’s cloture rule, an arbitrary 60-vote threshold, is again the only reason that anyone is talking about a shutdown. It’s the reason we’re stuck in this endless cycle of short term budget extensions and government shutdowns.

Without it, a Republican-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate could easily pass funding measures that would deliver key wins, including funding for a wall and much-needed resources for our border enforcement agents. Instead, Washington D.C. shows its ineptitude by allowing the Senate cloture rule to impede actions necessary for funding our government and protecting our national security. Regardless of the party in power, constitutional parameters established for our bicameral, bipartisan Congress should be well respected. The Senate and the House both have the constitutional authority to set and change their own rules and procedures for conducting business. We should not allow a handful of officials to ignore the principles of majority rule that our great nation was founded upon.

As Democrats continue to obstruct wall funding and other border security priorities, conditions on the southern border are worsening. It is important to remember that the entire Mexican side of our southern border is controlled by criminal cartels who traffic three things: weapons, drugs, and humans. Over the past two months, Border Patrol has seen a nearly 90% increase in attempted illegal crossings and a 44% increase in the number of unaccompanied minors since last year. Our southern border is reaching a state of crisis.

The time to secure our border is now. I’ve been to our southern border, scouted the terrain, and spoken with the boots on the ground. Their job is to detect, deter, and respond to illegal crossings. However, these agents cannot effectively carry out their mission if Congress continues to neglect top border security priorities. Providing funding for enhanced physical barriers, known collectively as the wall, is mission critical for our border enforcement agents.

Furthermore, walls work. Data collected by DHS shows that illegal immigration has decreased in border sectors where physical barriers have been constructed. These physical barriers not only delay or stop illegal border crossings but also allow our border agents greater response time. However, additional wall infrastructure is required. This is what is required in combination with advanced technologies like drones, surveillance systems, all-terrain vehicles, etc. There are about 700 miles of existing fencing, and much of that existing barrier must be hardened. In totality, there are approximately 900 miles of the southern border where the physical terrain requires enhanced wall infrastructure. This would decidedly improve DHS’ response to illegal crossings, but Democrats continue to block the necessary funding.

Democrat leadership has stated that they support border security, but their party has voted in lock-step to prioritize illegal immigrants and the profits of the Mexican drug cartels over the safety and security of American citizens. It has become increasingly clear that they will not strike
a deal before shutting down the government.

This is only further evidence of a broken process, hijacked by the existing Senate rules. Senate Democrats have continuously exploited the current cloture rule to obstruct any win for President Trump or the conservative agenda. At a minimum, the Senate should consider lowering the threshold to a simple majority for appropriations bills, similar to what has been done twice for Supreme Court and lower court judicial nominations. Instead, we have allowed the cloture rule to impede significant pieces of legislation. Budget after budget, conservative priorities fall by the wayside while stop-gap spending deals have become the new norm. This process is broken.

While the founders envisioned a system for passing legislation that was rooted in healthy and rigorous debate, they clearly never intended for Congress to repeatedly fail to fulfill its duty keep the government funded. Returning to a simple majority vote for appropriations would restore the process envisioned by our Founding Fathers. We could avert the constant threat of a needless shutdown and deliver significant victories for border security. This is what must be done, and what our congressional leaders must have the courage to do. The time to act is now.

Once Speaker Pelosi takes the gavel, any effort to secure the border will be dead on arrival.

Congressman Clay Higgins (R-La.) is a member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border & Maritime Security. He represents Louisiana’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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