By BRIAN GRAVES
U.S. Rep Scott DesJarlais (R-4th District) said Thursday if shutting down the U.S. government is down to a debate between keeping the military adequately funded or allowing illegal immigrants to …
U.S. Rep Scott DesJarlais (R-4th District) said Thursday if shutting down the U.S. government is down to a debate between keeping the military adequately funded or allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country, the defense of the country is the paramount priority.
DesJarlais spoke to the Cleveland Daily Banner from the U.S. Capitol, just moments after the U.S. House approved, by a vote of 230-197, a continuing resolution to keep the government open.
Six Democrats voted for the bill and 11 Republicans voted against it.
As of press time today the measure was in the U.S. Senate, but without 60 votes to approve the bill, a government shutdown would begin at midnight Friday.
DesJarlais is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, which insisted on a separate vote for a full year of funding for the Department of Defense separate from any future spending bills.
“The big concern with members of the House Freedom Caucus and many members of the House Armed Service Committee was that our military is in a very poor state of readiness due to uncertainty in the funding stream,” DesJarlais said. “We’ve been operating on continuing resolutions now really for years, but in December we had hoped to fund the military at the very least for the entire year in exchange for a continuing resolution vote on Dec. 8.”
“Now, we’re at a shutdown deadline and we still haven’t seen that happen,” he said. “We were trying to demand that our leadership fund the military and give our fighting men and women the resources they need to carry out the multiple tasks we are asking of them in this very dangerous climate.”
He said the Democrats in both houses of Congress “want to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants or threaten to shut down the government.”
“The fight really is framed as the Republicans want to fund the military. Democrats want to provide legal status for people who came here illegally,” DesJarlais said. “To me, it’s a ridiculous fight.”
He said the agreement now is there will be a vote in the House on military funding the day President Donald Trump gives his State of the Union address on Jan. 30 that will “reestablish the funding levels for defense as well as provide for a break in the defense cap under sequestration.”
“We will send that to the Senate and the president will emphasize that during his speech,” DesJarlais said.
DesJarlais, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, reiterated his point that if the Senate vote fails and the government shuts down, “it is literally over their refusal to fund the government because of the DACA issue.”
“We don’t need to just address DACA, or the dreamers as they call them. We need to address immigration reform and the House put forth a bill that I am co-sponsoring and most of the Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Group, which is a much larger group, have thrown their support behind,” he said. “We simply wanted to take it to a floor vote in the House, but for some reason [House Speaker] Paul Ryan and the leadership has been reluctant to do so.”
“I think it’s because they are negotiating with Sen Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) in the Senate for a DACA deal that is more focused on just the ‘Dreamers’ rather than border security, ending chain migration, ending the VISA lottery, ending sanctuary cities and the other issues that are important to Republicans.”
He said the proposed bill addresses those issues and is one he can support.
“What it does for the DACA recipients is provide a three-year extension of their status. It does not give them citizenship status, but protects them from deportation for a three-year basis which I think is more than fair,” DesJarlais said. “It’s not necessarily something I’m for, but I’m willing to give that if we get all those other things I mentioned. Getting a floor vote on a conservative immigration bill guaranteed was another agreement reached between the Freedom Caucus and leadership. They agreed to do that before the current continuing resolution expires on Feb. 16.”
When it comes to the military spending bill, the congressman says it needs to come to a vote regardless of what happens in the Senate on the issue at hand.
“We need to have this fight for the military,” DesJarlais said. “There have been 80 non-combat deaths due to readiness problems, such as the ships which collided with each other. Basically a lot of that is just due to too much demand on our Navy without proper training. It’s extremely important we get this funding in place.”
“We don’t need to just address DACA, or the dreamers as they call them. We need to address immigration reform and the House put forth a bill that I am co-sponsoring and most of the Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Group, which is a much larger group, have thrown their support behind. We simply wanted to take it to a floor vote in the House, but for some reason [House Speaker] Paul Ryan and the leadership has been reluctant to do so.” — U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais
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