History

Does The U.S. Need A Dept. Of Homeland Security?

The Department of Homeland Security was intended to function as domestic emergency responders and anti-terrorism world police with revenue neutral spending. What would the U.S. be like without the DHS?

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On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that approved funding for the Department of Homeland Security through the end of this fiscal year. Though it displeased some conservative lawmakers, the bill did not have any riders pertaining to President Obama's recent actions on immigration. It was a "clean bill."

By a vote of 257 to 167, the bill passed, bringing an end to a political showdown between House Republicans and the Obama administration. Conservative lawmakers had wanted to stake a political fight with President Obama over his recent immigration executive actions. Many on the right held that Mr. Obama's order, which would prevent the deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants, was unconstitutional. In the end, 75 Republican representatives voted to approve the bill.

The House did not have much of a choice in the matter. In a private meeting of Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner outlined three options. They could either pass the "clean bill" as is, pass another short-term stopgap to postpone the fight, or implement a partial government shutdown at the Department of Homeland Security. For the Republican leadership, passing the legislation was the only option. After taking majority in both houses of Congress, Republicans promised to govern effectively and avoid government shutdowns. To fail on that promise so early in the session would hurt the party and the leadership.

As this episode discusses, the Department of Homeland Security oversees a swath of government agencies, including the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service, and the Coast Guard. If there was a partial shutdown of that branch of the federal government and public safety was somehow impacted, it would have been far worse for Republicans than losing some political face.

Learn More:
Report: DHS employees put $30,000 worth of Starbucks on government credit card (Washington Post)
"Federal employees who are issued so-called purchase cards are permitted to spend up to $3,000 - known as "micropurchases" - and do not have to disclose those purchases publicly."

Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina (House of Representatives)

House passes bill to fully fund Homeland Security (Washington Post)
"The House passed a bill Tuesday afternoon to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of the fiscal year, sending it to President Obama for his expected signature."

A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform (House of Representatives)
"In the wake of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA; P.L. 107-71). Most notably, ATSA created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA has a vital and important mission and is critical to the security of the traveling public."