Kathy Castor again blasts U.S. House GOP on failure to come up with bill to fund DHS

in Top Headlines by

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor says there are still ways for House Republicans to pass a clean funding bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security, which could run out of money by Friday if a resolution isn’t passed in Congress.

The Tampa Bay area Democrat held a press conference Tuesday in a parking lot of the International Mall in Tampa on Tuesday. Over the weekend Al-Shabab, an extremist group in Somalia linked to al-Qaida, released a video in which they threatened to terrorize shopping centers around the world.

“We’ve got to have people fully focused on the threats to our national security,”  Castor said. “They cannot be distracted. They’ve got to stay one step ahead of the security threats, and I’m afraid that if the congressional Republicans take us to the end of the week, shut down the Department of Homeland Security, this could have very serious consequences for our security.”

Conservative House Republicans have passed a DHS funding bill that would undo programs created by President Barack Obama that shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. But Senate Democrats have blocked that measure repeatedly, insisting on a clean funding bill. Last night Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to strip the immigration measures from the DHS funding bill, setting up separate votes, but it is unclear whether House conservatives will accept that maneuver.

Castor said the move by McConnell doesn’t get to the heart of the matter of funding DHS. She said the House needs to vote on a clean DHS funding bill, and wishes that House Speaker John Boehner would bring such a bill to the House floor.

“What I’m afraid of is that Speaker Boehner is captive of the real right-wing right now,” she says, referring to Boehner’s appearance on Fox News Sunday nine days ago when he said, “Certainly,” after being asked if he’d actually let DHS funding to expire. “The House has acted,” he said.

“They were willing to do that before and I think that’s why so many of us are concerned that they could lead us down this path again,” Castor said Tuesday, referring to the GOP-led government shutdown that occurred back in October 2013.

In an op-ed published in The Hill Tuesday, the president wrote that threats by the GOP to shut down the DHS are “irresponsible.”

Castor said she stands foursquare behind Obama in defending his executive actions on immigration that have enraged so many Republicans. She says that if the Congress would agree to the “radical policy riders” that the House Republicans attached to the DHS funding bill, “You would be saying to Dream Act students all across the country that you have to go find another country.”

“These are kids that have never known another country,” she regarding the undocumented immigrants that under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program would be shielded from deportation.

Last week a federal judge blocked the executive actions that Obama took late last year to shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. In delaying the ruling, Texas Judge Andrew Hanen halted Obama’s executive action, ruling that the administration had failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which calls for the White House to afford a longer notification and comment period before taking action.

Castor said they are the same Republicans who have been arguing for stronger enforcement at the Mexican border, “yet we’re going to defund and shut down border security? It simply doesn’t make sense. We can have those fights down the road.”

According to media reports, a majority of DHS employees are considered “exempt” and would be required to work, but wouldn’t be paid if the DHS isn’t funded after Friday. The others would be furloughed, or forced to stay home without pay.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.