President Barack Obama claimed on Monday that without a comprehensive budget covering the Department of Homeland Security, more than 130,000 mission-critical employees will be forced to work without pay by the end of the month.
They include 40,000 employed by Customs and Border Protection, 50,000 Transportation Security Administration screeners, 13,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 40,000 Coast Guard personnel.
Pay would be restored at the end of any withholding period.
‘I know how vital you are, and I want to make sure more Americans know how vital you are,’ Obama told an auditorium full of DHS employees Monday the department’s headquarters, as the White House rolled out his $4 trillion budget request for 2016.
In addition, it’s likely that 4,000 people who work for the Secret Service will see paychecks on hold if Obama doesn’t strike a deal with Republicans in Congress.
‘I want to make sure you have what you need to keep getting the job done,’ he said.
‘The men and women of America’s homeland security apparatus do important work to protect us, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress should not be playing politics with them,’ he added.
Republicans agreed in December to fund most of the government through September 2015, but put Homeland Security on a shorter leash in order to keep their leverage as Obama threatened to implement sweeping changes to America’s immigration enforcement policy.
DHS’s funding runs out in less than four weeks, and could be stopped entirely if Obama continues to pursue his plan to give residence and work permits to 5 million or more illegal immigrants.
GOP leadership calls the plan ‘executive amnesty,’ and insists that Congress – not the White House – has sole authority to determine who may and may not legally stay in the United States.
The president pushed back on Monday as he rolled out the larger budget designed to get America through September 2016. That budget would add $474 billion to the national debt.
‘I will not accept a budget that severs the vital links between our national security and our economic security,’ Obama said.
‘Those two things go hand in hand,’ he insisted.
But that budget is likely dead on arrival since he is proposing higher taxes on wealthier Americans and job-creating companies.
‘Like the president’s previous budgets, this plan never balances – ever,’ House Speaker John Boehner said Monday morning. ‘It contains no solutions to address the drivers of our debt, and no plan to fix our entire tax code to help foster growth and create jobs.’
‘Worse yet, President Obama would impose new taxes and more spending without a responsible plan to honestly address the big challenges facing our country.’
Boehner pledged that he would present a balanced budget that ‘will help promote job creation and higher wages, not more government bureaucracy.’
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell charged that Obama’s budget is a ‘top-down, backward-looking document that caters to powerful political bosses on the Left.’
Obama’s budget includes an unprecedented $478 billion public works program that promises to repair crumbling highways, bridges and public transit systems, largely by providing jobs to Democrats’ powerful labor union constituency.
Its tax rate on capital gains – investment income – would be the highest in America since 1997.
The president is demanding a 7 per cent increase in domestic spending and the defense budget, undoing the fiscal restraint that marked the 2011 budget deal.
Obama called those cuts ‘mindless austerity.’
On Monday he quoted an unnamed Republican whom he said had insisted that if DHS funding were on hold, ‘it’s not the end of the world.’
‘I guess that’s literally that’s true,’ the president said. ‘It may not be the end of the world. But unril they pass a funding bill, it is the end of a paycheck for tens of thousands of front-line workers who will continue to have to work without getting paid.’
That was different from what he said last week in Philadelphia, when he implied that the department would actually shut down its operations in the wake of a budget impasse.
‘What do you mean, “It’s not the end of the world”?’ Obama said on Jan. 29. ‘That’s all you’ve been talking about. And now, suddenly, because you want to make a political point, you think that we can afford to have the Department of Homeland Security not functioning – because of political games in Washington?’
The GOP congressman who said it wouldn’t be ‘the end of the world,’ Florida’s Mario Diaz-Balart, was referring to the fact that critical functions wouldn’t stop.
‘It’s not the end of the world if we get to that time because the national security functions will not stop – whether it’s border security or a lot of other issues,’ Diaz-Balart had told Politico.
‘Having said so, I think we should always aspire to try to get it done.’
Obama was chastened by The Annenberg School of Communications’ FactCheck.org website, which declared that he had ‘fudged facts in Philly.’
So on Monday he focused instead on a temporary stoppage of paychecks, the same phenomenon employees across all cabinet agencies saw in 2013.
‘These Americans aren’t just working to keep us safe,’ he said. ‘They have to take care of their own families. The notion that they would get caught up in a disagreement around policy that has nothing to do with them makes no sense.’
Courtesy of Daily Mail