U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the importance of border security and expressed his frustration with Senate and House Democrats for their opposition to funding a border wall, considering Sen. Schumer and former Sens. Biden, Clinton, and Obama all voted to authorize a border fence in 2006.
Thune’s speech (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I’d like to say a couple of words about Senator Alexander.
“I was sad to hear that he will be leaving the Senate in two years.
“While I’m sure he will enjoy having more time to relax at home in his beloved Tennessee, his gain is our loss.
“Over the course of his 16-year career in the Senate, he has been a leader and a model for many of us, including me.
“As a former secretary of education, he has, unsurprisingly, been a leader on education issues, and he has also been a tremendous leader on health care.
“He combines an impressive knowledge of the issues with an ability to bring together members of both parties to get things done.
“He and I share the unusual distinction of having both been congressional staffers before becoming members of Congress.
“We’ve also both served as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.
“And Lamar was definitely a tough act to follow.
“I will miss his presence in the Senate, but I’m glad we still have two more years to work together to improve the lives of the American people.
“Mr. President, I also need to mention Senator Kyl, who just announced that he’s retiring from the Senate … for the second time.
“Senator Kyl initially retired at the end of the 112th Congress after a distinguished Senate career, but he stepped up to fill in after we lost Senator McCain earlier this year.
“He’s rightly renowned in this body for his statesmanship and his deep knowledge, and it’s been a pleasure having him back in the Senate, even for a brief time.
“Mr. President, the 115th Congress is drawing to a close, and it’s time to finish up our work.
“Most importantly, of course, we need to fund the government.
“While this year’s Senate was the most efficient in two decades in terms of passing appropriations bills, we still have a significant amount of funding left to pass this week.
“And a critical part of this funding is border security.
“As all of us know, protecting our border is protecting our nation.
“When we can’t control the flow of goods and people across our borders, dangerous individuals and products enter our nation without our knowledge.
“The fact is, our borders are not sufficiently secure, and as we’ve recently seen with the migrant caravans, they’re a target for illegal entry.
“Over the past year, illegal border crossing apprehensions have shot up by more than 30 percent.
“A porous border leaves us susceptible to illegal entry by gang members, human traffickers, drug dealers, and weapons traffickers.
“Federal agents have seen a substantial increase in seizures of deadly drugs, including a 115 percent increase in the amount of fentanyl seized between ports of entry.
“Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous opioids out there and a major contributor to the opioid crisis raging in this country.
“In 2017, opioids were involved in the deaths of almost 50,000 Americans.
“Roughly half or more of those deaths involved fentanyl.
“If this is what’s being caught at legal points of entry, we know more is coming over the unsecured border.
“Then there’s human trafficking.
“Every year, between 14,500 and 17,500 individuals are trafficked into the United States – predominantly women and children.
“Then they are sold into domestic slavery, or, most frequently, forced into pornography or prostitution.
“And of course, there’s the ever-present and very real danger that members of terrorist groups will exploit loopholes in our border security to enter our country and endanger our citizens.
“Mr. President, I don’t need to explain this to Democrat members.
“They know all of this.
“And they’ve supported measures to protect our borders.
“In 2006, the Democrat leader and the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted for legislation to authorize a border fence.
“They were joined in their vote by then Senators Biden, Clinton, and Obama.
“In 2013, every Senate Democrat supported legislation requiring the completion of a 700-mile fence along our southern border.
“This legislation would have provided $46 billion for border security and $8 billion specifically for the wall.
“Nothing has changed, Mr. President.
“Border security is still a national security imperative, and it still needs to be funded.
“So I hope Democrats’ support for border security won’t change either.
“In 2013, Nancy Pelosi said that a shutdown was, quote, “an unthinkable tactic to use in the political debate.”
“I have to agree that it’s unthinkable that Democrats would jeopardize government operations and services to block funding to secure our border.
“The American people are certainly not interested in a government shutdown.
“They made that clear back in January when Democrats shut down the government over illegal immigration.
“And I know Democrats and Republicans in Congress are not interested in shutting down the government for Christmas.
“So I hope an appropriations bill will pass this week.
“It’s time to get the government funded.
“Mr. President, while I’m on the issue of national security, I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss the recent report from the National Defense Strategy Commission.
“The report is sobering, and it should give our work to restore military readiness a new level of intensity.
“I’d like to just highlight a few excerpts:
“‘The security and wellbeing of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades.’
“‘The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict …’
“‘It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia …’
“‘The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously …’
“‘Additionally, it would be unwise and irresponsible not to expect adversaries to attempt debilitating kinetic, cyber, or other types of attacks against Americans at home while they seek to defeat our military abroad ...’
“‘U.S. military superiority is no longer assured and the implications for American interests and American security are severe.’
“Mr. President, the threats to our national security are many, and they are growing in complexity by the day.
“But it’s not our strength that tempts our adversaries; it’s our weakness.
“The best way to ensure our security and that of our allies is to project strength.
“And the best way to project strength is to make sound investments in our men and women in uniform and the right investments in sustainment and modernization.
“I hope this report will be a wake-up call, and that Democrats will come to the table to continue the work of rebuilding our military in the 116th Congress.
“We need to continue the momentum led by President Trump in restoring our military readiness so that bad actors will rethink their actions.
“And if I could remind my colleagues, Mr. President, providing the Pentagon funding certainty allows it to leverage its greatest asset: the men and women of our military.
“Investing in our national defense is an investment in the men and women who are currently standing watch around the world this holiday season, forgoing the comforts of home so that we can celebrate with our friends and family.
“This last weekend I had the honor of attending an activation ceremony for the Bravo Battery of the 1-147 Field Artillery of the South Dakota National Guard.
“They are deploying in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and demonstrating America’s commitment to security in Europe at a time of heightened tensions.
“We thank them for their service, and wish them a safe deployment.
“May we think of Bravo Battery and extend our thanks to all the men and women in uniform defending our freedoms this time of year--and may we return in the 116th Congress with a renewed commitment to supporting their mission and needs.”