Editorials

Playing games with real lives and national security

Democratic senators are joined by first-responders at a Capitol Hill event to urge Republicans to support a “clean bill” to fund the Department of Homeland Security.
Democratic senators are joined by first-responders at a Capitol Hill event to urge Republicans to support a “clean bill” to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The Associated Press

If Congress were a kid, it would have been sent to bed without dinner long ago for playing a dangerous game of chicken with public safety. The Department of Homeland Security is not a toy.

Senators, showing they have a bit more maturity than their incorrigible House of Representative siblings, agreed Wednesday to vote on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security that doesn’t include provisions to defund the president’s recent executive action on immigration. They will vote on those separately.

So now the fate of the department’s quarter-million employees entrusted with keeping borders, airports and the coastal waters secure is in the hands of the House. God help us all.

The DHS will run out of funds on Friday if there is no funding bill and will have to partially shut down.

It will be a mostly symbolic closure since a vast majority of the people employed by the DHS are considered “essential” and would have to stay on the job. But there will be some real damage nonetheless.

It will be absorbed primarily by the approximately 240,000 people in modestly paid jobs: transportation security agents working at the nation’s airports, Border Patrol and Coast Guard officers working hard to protect our immense borders from all manner of incursion. Only about 30,000 DHS employees would be furloughed, the rest would be working without a paycheck.

That’s some kind of backward gratitude, though we are certain these professionals will make sure a shutdown won’t impair national security. Still it’s unfair for working people to pay the price for the political games of those who for the most part aren’t worried about their next paycheck.

Republican congressional leaders may not realize it, but they stand to lose the most in this absurd political game, in the form of respect. They control both houses of Congress and are still just reacting to whatever the mean ol’ president comes up with rather than taking a lead? Grow up, already.

There’s not even a real reason for a principled stand on this. This showdown began after Obama announced plans to bypass stalled immigration legislation and offer deferred deportation action to parents of U.S. citizens and lift the age cap on deferred action for people brought into the country as children.

That became a non-issue when Texas federal Judge Andrew S. Hanen last week issued a temporary restraining order stopping the president’s immigration action and the Obama administration agreed to put it on hold until an appeal.

That’s enough. It’s time for the Republican-led Congress to show Americans it knows how to govern. The first step is not to use the lives of real people as playthings and pass a funding bill for DHS.

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