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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about Democrats’ unwillingness to prioritize border security in a national security package. Thune noted that it is essential for the United States to support its allies, but addressing the national security crisis on the southern border must be the priority.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, President Zelenskyy visited Washington, D.C., last week to ask for the United States’ continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia.
“And as someone who strongly believes it is in our national security interest to aid Ukraine as well as our allies Israel and Taiwan, I am disappointed that we have not already passed the aid Ukraine needs.
“But let’s be very clear, Mr. President.
“The reason the Senate has not already passed a national security supplemental is because Democrats have so far chosen to prioritize an open border over aid for our allies.
“Democrats have known for months that border security was going to be part of the national security supplemental – after all, the president himself requested border funding in his supplemental request.
“And Republicans have had a border security proposal on the table since the beginning of November.
“But Democrats wasted weeks refusing to engage in substantive negotiations, even though they were well aware that border security was going to be a requirement for getting this supplemental through both houses of Congress.
“And now the supplemental will be pushed to January because Democrats have run out the clock to the point where getting a substantive border security deal passed before Christmas is impossible.
“Mr. President, last week President Biden said that failing to pass the national security supplemental before the holidays would be a Christmas gift to Putin.
“Well, Mr. President, I’d like to point out once again that the only reason we haven’t passed the national security supplemental already is because of Democrats and President Biden.
“Only one of the two parties has been dragging its feet on negotiations, and it has not been Republicans.
“A lot of us Republicans are very eager to get Ukraine the aid it needs.
“But we cannot – we cannot – tend to our national security interests abroad while ignoring the national security crisis on our own doorstep.
“President Biden wants to talk about a gift to Putin?
“Let’s talk about the gift the president has been giving to terrorists and criminals and cartels for three years with the chaos at our southern border.
“We have had three successive record-breaking years of illegal immigration at our southern border on President Biden’s watch.
“And the president is no closer to getting this crisis under control than when it first started.
“During October – the latest month for which we have data – U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered 240,988 migrants at our southern border – the highest October number ever recorded.
“The past 24 hours alone saw a record-breaking 12,600-plus migrant encounters at the southern border – the highest daily total ever recorded.
“And those numbers don’t count gotaways – individuals the Border Patrol saw but was unable to apprehend.
“And, Mr. President, let’s be very clear – while many of these individuals may simply have headed to the United States in search of a better life, there is no question that there are dangerous individuals trying to make their way into our country.
“During fiscal year 2023, the Border Patrol arrested 169 individuals on the terrorist watchlist at the southern border.
“That was a substantial increase over fiscal year 2022, which was itself a substantial increase over fiscal year 2021.
“That’s not a good trajectory, Mr. President.
“And, again, these numbers only refer to individuals the Border Patrol actually apprehended.
“There were 670,000 known gotaways during fiscal year 2023 – how many of them were terrorists, criminals, or other dangerous individuals?
“We don’t know.
“But one thing we do know, Mr. President, is that the chaotic situation at our southern border cannot continue.
“Our country cannot be secure while we have 10,000 people a day pouring across our southern border – and hundreds of thousands of unknown individuals taking up residence in our country.
“The federal government is charged with responsibility for our nation’s security.
“And we owe the American people nothing less than a secure border.
“And so while I believe it is essential that we get aid to our allies, any supplemental must include measures to address our national security here at home at the border as well as our national security interests abroad.
“And I want to thank Senator Lankford for his patience and tenacity in working to bring Democrats to the table.
“Mr. President, after weeks of Democrat intransigence, it is encouraging that the White House has finally – finally – stepped up to take on a role in negotiations.
“It’s too bad they didn’t do this weeks ago.
“But I hope that the president and Democrats understand that the only acceptable outcome of negotiations is a solution that meets the challenge at our southern border.
“Cosmetic measures and superficial tweaks are not going to cut it.
“So, Mr. President, the ball is in Democrats’ court.
“We need to get aid to allies like Ukraine.
“But we cannot pass legislation to do that without addressing the situation at our southern border.
“I’d like to think that Democrats would see the necessity of addressing our border crisis irrespective of what is needed to get this bill through Congress.
“But at the very least I hope that Democrats’ concern for our national security interests abroad will lead them to finally, finally, get serious about working with Republicans to address the national security crisis here at home.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”