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Vela vows government will reopen

January 3, 2019

As the House of Representatives, newly controlled by Democrats, opens for business Thursday, Brownsville Rep. Filemon Vela expects to immediately re-open the government.

"On Thursday, as Democrats take over control of the House of Representatives we will immediately pass legislation to open up the government. This legislation mirrors the Republican-led effort that passed the Senate unanimously before the President shut down the government," Vela said in a statement. "Currently seventy-five percent of our discretionary government operations are fully funded through September 2019. The remainder, which affects seven government agencies, is subject to the current shutdown."

The partial shutdown began on Dec. 22 after the Senate declined to bring a funding bill to President Donald Trump after Trump said he would not sign the legislation because it did not include $5 billion for border wall construction - one of his signature campaign promises to supporters.

Vela said the democratic legislation will immediately fund six of seven government agencies through September 2019 and temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security through February, leaving more time for negotiations.

DHS’s current funding includes $1.3 billion for border security, funds which can be put toward a border wall.

"To the extent that physical barriers have either been previously funded or might be funded in the future, we are working with House and Senate leadership not only to protect the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge but also to legislatively protect the Lower Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Refuge and SpaceX, Bentsen State Park, La Lomita Chapel and the National Butterfly Center in Mission," Vela said in the statement.

Toward the end of December, Trump threatened to close the border if Democrats did not include the $5 billion for a border wall.

"We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give use the money to finish the wall and also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our country is saddled with," Trump wrote on Facebook on Dec. 28.

And on Wednesday, it appeared the plan to fully re-open the government would be a non-starter.

"President Trump made a serious, good faith offer to Democrats to open the government, address the crisis at our border, and protect all Americans. We have heard nothing back from the Democrats, who so far have refused to compromise," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement provided to Newsweek.

On Jan. 1, Trump tweeted that House of Representatives Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi should make a deal.

"Border Security and the Wall ‘thing’ and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?," Trump said on Twitter.

Sanders said the legislation, which is the same legislation touted by Vela, places the needs of other countries above those of U.S. citizens.

"Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi released a plan that will not re-open the government because it fails to secure the border and puts the needs of other countries above the needs of our own citizens," Sanders said, according to Newsweek.

Pelosi, along with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, said in a joint statement that Trump has failed to offer a plan that can both chambers of Congress and reopen the government.

"The President is using the government shutdown to try to force an expensive and ineffective wall upon the American people, but Democrats have offered two bills which separate the arguments over the wall from the goverment shutdown," Pelosi and Schumer said in the statement. "The first bill would reopen all government agencies except for the Department of Homeland Security - not taking a position on the President’s wall. It would simply continue the funding levels and language that both parties have already supported. The second bill would extend the Deparmtent of Homeland Security’s funding through February 8th, which Republicans already supported in recent weeks."

Vela, who has been a vocal opponent of building or funding a border wall, proposed appropriating $4 billion for border security infrastructure at ports of entry.

"Finally, as an alternative to the President’s misguided insistence on physical barrier funding, I am proposing that four billion dollars be appropriated to fully fund border security infrastructure at our nation’s ports of entry," Vela said in a statement. "Legislators from across the United States have expressed serious concerns with respect to addressing the nation’s opioid and fentanyl crisis."

According to Vela, 85- to 88-percent of fentanyl and opioid seizures occur at ports of entry.

"For that reason, I believe that federal resources dedicated to these measures are a much better bang for the buck than wasted border wall funding," Vela said in a statement.

On Dec. 22, before the partial government shutdown, Trump signed the United States Ports of Entry Threat and Operational Review Act into law.

That bill, which was sponsored by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Michigan Democrat Gary Peters, initiates an in-depth analysis of the strengths, opportunities and vulnerabilities at the country’s ports of entry in order to promote efficient trade and travel across borders while decreasing illegal activity.

"Trade and travel through Texas’ many ports of entry spur our state’s economy, connect cross-border communities, and provide jobs for millions of Texans, so it’s important we ensure ports have the resources and information they need to run efficiently and safely," Cornyn said in a statement. "I’m grateful to the Trump Administration for their support of this critical bill that will affect millions of Texans."

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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