WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The following is Sen. Mitch McConnell's remarks from Jan. 9 on the Senate floor:
“Last night President Trump delivered his first address to the nation from the Oval Office. In the midst of this partial government shutdown, the president offered a reminder of just what’s at stake: The security of our nation’s southern border. By now, on Day 19 of Senate Democrats’ latest experiment in ‘absentee negotiation,’ my colleagues are well-versed in the facts on the ground.
“We know that Border Patrol agents are encountering historic levels of illicit substances like fentanyl and heroin at the border. We know that last year saw thousands of attempted border crossings by individuals with criminal records and hundreds more by known gang members. We understand that the status quo is not enough to keep our families and communities safe. Fortunately, we know that the solutions on the table -- solutions which the president has placed at the center of the national conversation since the earliest days of his administration -- are eminently reasonable.
“As one former Border Patrol Chief under President Obama put it just recently, quote, ‘If you look in the past, you don’t have to go too far back in history… bipartisan legislation passed where they built the wall or fence or physical barrier. Whatever you want to call it, it's a wall. It works.’
He also said this: ‘It’s not based on personal political ideology. That’s based on historical data and facts that can be proven… I cannot think of a legitimate argument why anyone would not support the wall as part of the multilayered border security issue...’
“‘Why are we not listening to the experts and the people who are doing it every day?’ That’s one of President Obama’s Border Patrol chiefs. The experts know what they’re talking about. The facts back them up. According to the CBP, in four border sectors where this administration has already constructed or improved physical barriers in the past two years, illegal traffic has fallen by 90%. Of course, not too long ago, my colleagues across the aisle had a completely different position on this subject. Before the political winds blew a certain way, before this particular president was inaugurated, Senate Democrats did heed the advice of the men and women who protect our border.
“By wide, bipartisan margins -- and on multiple occasions -- the Senate has cleared billions of dollars in funding for physical barriers along the southern border. In 2006, then-Senator Obama said the Secure Fence Act would provide, quote, ‘badly needed funding for better fences and better security.’ In 2009, the current Democratic Leader praised as major progress, quote ‘630 miles of border fence that create a significant barrier to illegal immigration.’ And during the last presidential election, former Senator Clinton saw fit to tout the ‘numerous times’ she voted to, quote, ‘build a barrier to try and prevent illegal immigrants from coming in.’
“‘Numerous times’... ‘significant barrier’... ‘badly needed’... That was where leading Democrats stood. Today, however, it seems there’s a new party line: The use of physical barriers to preserve the integrity of a sovereign nation is now -- according to the new Speaker of the House -- immoral. From ‘badly needed’ to ‘immoral’ in little more than the span of a presidency. Talk about a pivot. My Democratic friends wanted fencing and physical barriers in the recent past. Their most prominent leaders bragged about voting for it.
“The only thing — the only thing — that has changed between then and now is the occupant of the White House. Steel fencing was fine, even salutary, when President Obama was in the White House. But it is ‘immoral’ when President Trump occupies the office. All of a sudden, Democrats have developed this new partisan allergy to the subject of border security. They’re even prolonging a partial government shutdown, just to avoid getting more of what they themselves have voted for in the past.
“This inconsistency doesn’t stop with drawing imaginary lines in the sand between the border security that Senate Democrats once supported and the virtually identical measures they’ve decided to oppose today. The inconsistency also extends to the conduct of the Senate itself during this tantrum. Yesterday evening, Democrats blocked the Senate from proceeding to important foreign policy legislation. This bill included measures of which they’ve been outspokenly supportive, even co-sponsored. But then they decided that getting anything done at all this week would clash with their political brand.
“To be clear, the legislation I’m referring to would have addressed several serious challenges to U.S. interests in the Middle East. It would have reaffirmed our commitment to the security of Israel, our closest regional ally. It would have reauthorized defense cooperation with Jordan, a critical partner. And it would have taken a vital step toward bringing the perpetrators and enablers of the Assad regime’s atrocities in Syria to justice.
“Frankly, it would have delivered on promises to which my Democratic colleagues appeared to be firmly committed. In their own words, Senate Democrats have discussed, quote, ‘the continuation of America’s unshakable, seven-decade commitment to Israel’s security,’ and doing ‘everything in our power to fight the BDS movement.’ But instead of proceeding to this legislation, Senate Democrats voted to block it. My friend the Democratic Leader chose to take this partial government shutdown that he is prolonging and add his very own ‘Senate shutdown’ on top of it.
“No progress, no bipartisan work, not even on urgent and pressing matters. Nothing that might take the spotlight off his unreasonable showdown with the president. Back during the 2013 government shutdown, the Senate kept right on chugging through the people’s business. We passed five bills and thirteen resolutions, appointed conferees on the Farm Bill and budget resolution, and confirmed 28 of President Obama’s nominees. But this time, the Democrats want to hold everything hostage? More inconsistency.
“Senate Democrats were for border security, including billions for physical barriers, before they were against it. And they were for the Senate working hard during government shutdowns on other business -- before they were against it. Well, until my Democratic colleagues agree to get back to work, the Senate can’t make much progress. Rest assured, Bashar al-Assad has not pressed the ‘pause’ button on the Syrian civil war simply because it doesn’t suit the Democratic Leader’s political strategy this week. Israel’s enemies haven’t stopped either.
“And until Democrats prioritize the public interest ahead of political spite, our border will not be secured and the federal government will remain partially closed. I cannot urge my Democratic friends more strongly to get past this purely partisan spite, rediscover their own past positions on border security, and negotiate a fair solution with the president to secure our nation and re-open all of the federal government.”