GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 203
(Senate - December 22, 2018)

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[Pages S8022-S8025]
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                          GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, at midnight last night, roughly 25 
percent of the government shut down because of one person and one 
person alone: President Trump. We arrived at this moment because 
President Trump has been on a destructive 2-week temper tantrum, 
demanding the American taxpayer pony up for an expensive and 
ineffective border wall that the President promised Mexico would pay 
  Make no mistake. The Trump shutdown is not about border security. All 
of the proposals we have made contain over $1 billion in new border 
security money, the same amount allocated last year by both parties and 
even the President agreed to. The Trump administration has barely even 
spent any of the border security money from last year. So the Trump 
shutdown isn't over border security; it is because President Trump is 
demanding billions of dollars for an expensive, ineffective wall the 
majority of Americans don't support.
  Let me remind you, the President called for a shutdown no less than 
25 times. He has wanted one for months. In our meeting in the Oval 
Office, President Trump said he would be ``proud'' to shut the 
government down. Imagine saying he would be proud to shut the 
government down.
  Even Rush Limbaugh, one of the biggest supporters of the President, 
said it was a Trump shutdown; that he caused it. He said--this is 
Limbaugh speaking: ``The President wants you to know it's money [for 
the wall] or nothing, and if it's nothing, he shuts it down.''
  Just 2 days ago, the Senate unanimously agreed to a proposal by 
Leader McConnell to keep the government open through February. It 
wasn't exactly what Democrats wanted--we thought it should be longer--
but we agreed because we wanted to keep the government open, and all 
indications were that the President would sign the bill, but President 
Trump--beholden to the far, far right, unwilling to shoulder even the 
slightest critique from Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham--changed his 
mind on the bipartisan Senate bill, passed unanimously by all 
Republicans and all Democrats in this Chamber, and he sent his House 
allies off to tilt at windmills.
  Everyone knew yesterday, long before the House vote, that the 
President's wall lacked 60 votes in the Senate. It has proven to lack 
even 50 votes. It will never pass the Senate--not today, not next week, 
not next year.
  So President Trump, if you want to open the government, you must 
abandon the wall, plain and simple. The Senate is not interested in 
swindling American taxpayers for an unnecessary, ineffective, and 
wasteful policy. What we do support, Democrats and Republicans, is 
real, effective border security--but not a wall. The wall is President 
Trump's bone to the hard-right people. It is no way to spend $5 
billion, for a political bone.
  I have heard the President and his allies in the media say Democrats 
don't support border security. Nothing could be further from the truth.
  Democrats have always been for smart and effective ways to secure our 
border. We are pushing for technology, like drones and sensors and 
inspection equipment. Every single proposal we made to the President 
included $1.3 billion for border security. The Trump shutdown provides 
zero dollars for border security, but I have never supported a border 
wall, and I challenge anyone on the hard right to find a time that I--
or any expert--has supported a wall like what the President has 
  So where do we go from here? Well, three proposals are on the table, 
two by Democrats--Leader Pelosi and I--one by Leader McConnell, each of 
which would reopen the government and provide $1.3 billion in border 
security. We are also open to discussing any proposals with the 
President as long as they don't include funding for the wall, but in 
order for an agreement to be reached, all four congressional leaders 
must sign off and the President must endorse it and say he will sign 
it. Leader McConnell must agree. Speaker Ryan must agree. They cannot 
duck responsibility. Leader McConnell still controls this Chamber. 
Speaker Ryan controls what reaches the floor of the House. They are 
essential to this process. Leader McConnell can't duck out of it. He 
knows that. Of course, Leader Pelosi and I must agree. Most 
importantly, the President must publicly support and say he will sign 
an agreement before it gets a vote in either Chamber. We don't want to 
go through what we went through a few days ago.
  Both Leader McConnell and I have agreed on that qualification for a 
specific reason. Repeatedly, the President

[[Page S8023]]

has privately agreed to a deal with congressional leaders, only to 
reverse himself when criticized by the far right. We can't have another 
situation when the President signals support at first but then reverses 
himself, which is precisely what caused this shutdown in the first 
  If Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, and I agree on a 
solution, and the President says he will sign it, we can end the Trump 
shutdown immediately.
  Discussions continue among the members of our staffs. The Republican 
Leader and I will update the Senate on the status of those talks once 
progress has been made.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Perdue). Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. LEAHY. Today, 9 of our 15 Federal Departments and several dozen 
Agencies have shuttered their doors. By doing that, they denied vital 
services to millions of American citizens.
  Since midnight last night, just a few days before Christmas, more 
than 800,000 dedicated public servants and their families have been 
told not to expect their next paycheck for the foreseeable future.
  There is one reason and one reason only that our Federal Government 
has shut down today and countless Americans are living with 
uncertainty. That reason is President Donald J. Trump. The President is 
holding the Federal Government hostage for $5 billion of from the 
American taxpayer for his unnecessary, ineffective, and expensive wall 
on the southern border--a wall he repeatedly promised--gave his word to 
the American taxpayers--that Mexico would pay for. Now he wants 
American taxpayers to dig in their pockets and pay for it.
  The President's irresponsible behavior is astounding. His job, like 
ours, is to keep the Federal Government operating for the hundreds of 
millions of Americans who depend on government services every day, from 
our national parks, to housing services for the elderly, the disabled, 
our veterans, and for assistance for our Nation's farmers. In fact, 2 
days ago, the President signed the farm bill into law and praised his 
efforts. Today, he precipitated a shutdown that shuttered the doors to 
the U.S. Department of Agriculture's field offices--the same offices 
farmers rely on to understand this new law.
  But the worst part of all is that this was completely avoidable. We 
provided the President with several options to avoid this result. It is 
a case where he cannot take yes for an answer. We offered to pass six 
full-year appropriations bills and a continuing resolution for Homeland 
or a continuing resolution for all the remaining bills. Either of these 
options would have kept the government open. They would have provided 
more than $1 billion for border security--the very thing the President 
says he needs and cares most about. Plus, signing them instead of 
having a needless shutdown would save taxpayers millions of dollars.
  After both of these offers were rejected, the Senate passed by voice 
vote a 7-week continuing resolution. This would have given us more time 
to negotiate and avert this catastrophe. Democrats and Republicans came 
together to pass it. The President had agreed to sign it. We finally 
had a path forward. Then FOX News and the rightwing media started 
criticizing it. The President's ego won out over his duties to the 
country. His ego was so bruised, he reversed course and went back on 
what he had agreed to.
  Here we are exactly where the President wanted us to be--in the 
middle of a Trump shutdown. For anyone doubting where responsibility 
lies, let's recall that the President has publicly called for a 
government shutdown no fewer than 25 times over the past year. Just 
last week, he declared he would be proud to shut down the government 
unless we capitulated to his demand. Proud? I have been here with every 
President, Republican and Democratic, since President Gerald Ford. It 
is one of the most reckless statements I have ever heard uttered by a 
President of the United States. And now he has made good on his threat. 
His pride has won out, and the Trump shutdown has begun. How long is it 
going to last? Who knows? Yesterday, the President promised it would 
last a long time, and then he promised us it would be a short shutdown. 
Even in this, his behavior is erratic.
  How did we get here? Is there a legitimate crisis precipitating this 
shutdown? Is the President playing games with the lives and livelihoods 
of American citizens to solve some immediate problem that threatens our 
Nation? No. Of course not. In caving to the most extreme sliver of his 
base, President Trump is throwing what many of us have described as a 
childish tantrum because he wants money to fulfill a cynical promise he 
made repeatedly on the campaign trail--more of a symbolic prize than 
any sensible policy solution.
  This wasteful wall--a wall he promised Mexico would pay for, not the 
American taxpayers--this wasteful wall that he now wants to bill to the 
American taxpayers would do more to preserve the President's ego than 
it would to protect the American people. But I believe it is the 
natural result of the President's years-long demonization and 
vilification of immigrants, years during which the President rallied 
his base with falsehoods and fantasies where vulnerable women and 
children are portrayed as hordes of gang members and terrorists 
invading our country. The sad reality, as Republicans and Democrats 
know, is that many of these people coming to our country are fleeing 
desperate situations in their home countries, and they are looking for 
sanctuary. They are not coming here to perpetuate violence; they are 
running from it.
  Let me be clear. There is no crisis that requires us to build a 30-
foot wall between us and our neighbors to the south. The President's 
hateful rhetoric about a crisis on our southern border does not reflect 
  At the end of 2017, arrests of people attempting to enter the United 
States illegally dropped to historic lows. Between 2000 and 2018, 
border apprehensions fell sharply from 1.6 million in fiscal year 2000 
to approximately 400,000 in fiscal year 2018. That is a 75-percent 
drop. Not only do the facts on the ground not warrant spending billions 
of American taxpayer dollars on a ``big beautiful wall,'' as the 
President likes to call it, that is not who we are as a nation. We are 
a country founded by immigrants, just as my maternal grandparents came 
to Vermont from Italy, my paternal great-great-grandparents came to 
Vermont from Ireland, and my wife's parents came to Vermont from the 
Province of Quebec in Canada. We need to look at the immigrant founding 
of our country. Then, if we want to wall ourselves off from our 
neighbors, it will not only be an expensive waste of Americans' 
taxpayer dollars, but it will be immoral, ineffective, and an affront 
to everything this country is supposed to stand for.

  To build a wall, the President wants to seize land from ranchers and 
farmers in Texas and in other border States--seize lands that have been 
in their families for generations. He would need to construct walls 
through wildlife refuges and nature preserves, basically destroying 
them. Ironically, we would end up walling ourselves off from the Rio 
Grande in the process, essentially ceding the river to Mexico.
  After all of that and after billions of wasted taxpayer dollars, what 
would it accomplish? Would it stop people from fleeing violence in 
their home countries and seeking sanctuary? No. Would it stop drug 
smugglers and human traffickers from engaging in illegal activity? 
Definitely no. As so many have said, show me a 30-foot wall, and I will 
show you a 31-foot ladder or a tunnel.
  To address these complex issues, we need real solutions, not bumper 
sticker slogans, not angry tweets. Everyone agrees we need to keep our 
borders safe and secure, but it has to be with smart border security, 
with border security that works, with new technologies that have proven 
to have worked on the border and at our ports of entry, technologies 
with new air and marine assets and additional personnel who are needed.
  A 30-foot wall is symbolic and unneeded. Even if we needed to build 
it, what is the rush? Over the past 2 years, Congress has provided 
nearly $1.7 billion to build or to replace fencing on

[[Page S8024]]

the southern border. Yet the administration has hardly spent any of 
that money, and the projects it has undertaken have been handled in 
such a way that they have ballooned in cost. We have given the 
administration $1.7 billion, and it is now demanding more. How much of 
the $1.7 billion did it spend? It spent 6 percent. Six percent of these 
funds have been spent. We have recently learned that one project in the 
Rio Grande Valley that was supposed to cost $445 million will now cost 
American taxpayers nearly $787 million. That is a 77-percent cost 
overrun with a pricetag of $31.5 million for each and every mile.
  We have seen that you cannot trust the administration to be 
responsible with the money we have already provided, let alone trust it 
to spend responsibly the additional money the President is demanding. 
Once and for all, let's put an end to this nonsense, and we have an 
easy way to do it.
  We could finish six of the seven appropriations bills right now while 
we continue to debate these other issues. These bills are the product 
of bipartisan compromise as the Republicans and Democrats have come 
together. They provide billions of dollars in new resources to address 
critical needs for the American people. They protect U.S. national 
security. These six bills that we have already agreed on--Republicans 
and Democrats--would provide much needed funding to help combat our 
Nation's opioid epidemic and critical investments in infrastructure. 
They would help us to rebuild our Nation's crumbling roads, bridges, 
and highways. They would provide resources to protect the environment 
and help ensure that the water we drink and the air we breathe is safe 
and clean for this generation, for our children, and for the following 
generation. They would also support key allies and national security 
programs to enable the United States to be a global leader--a role that 
is being increasingly challenged by China and Russia.
  So I have to ask; is the President really going to hold the American 
people hostage over a wall that he, time and again, has promised Mexico 
will pay for? Is he really going to force hundreds of thousands of 
Federal employees, including the very Agency he depends upon to carry 
out his immigration enforcement policy, to work without pay over the 
Christmas holiday? Is he really going to tell millions of Americans, 
including his most ardent supporters, that he could care less whether 
they are cut off from critical government services purely in the 
service of his own vanity?
  The President has, apparently, decided that fighting a symbolic fight 
for a shiny object is more important than keeping our government 
running for the American people. It is the height of irresponsibility.
  As negotiations with Chairman Shelby and Leader McConnell continue in 
good faith, I am here this weekend to continue to talk with Members of 
both parties, but we are all coming to the same conclusion. We can 
agree easily, Republicans and Democrats, but we can only succeed if the 
President decides to do what we have done, which is to put the country 
first. The President of the United States owes that to the American 
people. He owes reality, not rhetoric.
  I don't see another Member seeking recognition.
  I ask unanimous consent that the editorial in yesterday's New York 
Times about Secretary Mattis be placed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                [From the New York Times, Dec. 20, 2018]

          Jim Mattis Was Right--Who Will Protect America Now?

                        (By the Editorial Board)

       The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, 
     its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the 
     newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
       Jim Mattis is stepping down as defense secretary, a day 
     after President Trump overruled him and other top national 
     security advisers by ordering the rapid withdrawal of all 
     2,000 American ground troops from Syria. Mr. Mattis, a 
     retired four-star general, said in his letter of resignation 
     that his views on a number of foreign policy and defense 
     matters were fundamentally at odds with those of the 
       Mr. Mattis did not specifically mention the president's 
     seemingly impulsive decision on Syria, but he and other top 
     aides were clearly caught by surprise. With Mr. Mattis's 
     departure, the last of the original group of grounded 
     professionals who have, with at least partial success, 
     restrained Mr. Trump on foreign and defense policy are now 
       It was less than three months ago that John Bolton, the 
     national security adviser, spelled out a broader mission for 
     the American troops in Syria.
       At the time, it sounded like an authoritative statement of 
     official policy. Only, as is so often the case with Donald 
     Trump's chaotic presidency, it apparently wasn't.
       On Wednesday, Mr. Trump summarily overruled Mr. Bolton and 
     the rest of his national security team with his abrupt and 
     dangerous troop withdrawal decision. The move, detached from 
     any broader strategic context or any public rationale, sowed 
     new uncertainty about America's commitment to the Middle 
     East, its willingness to be a global leader and Mr. Trump's 
     role as commander in chief.
       It appears to have been the final straw for Mr. Mattis, who 
     has walked a tightrope for the past two years between his 
     training and his conscience, and the whims of his president. 
     He kept his concerns mainly to himself, while slow-walking a 
     number of Mr. Trump's demands, like banning transgender 
     troops and seeking a full-dress military parade down 
     Pennsylvania Avenue.
       Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the 
     Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a tweet that Mr. 
     Mattis's departure was ``scary.'' He called him ``an island 
     of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration.''
       Soldiers have a duty to follow their leader and carry out 
     lawful orders. But success depends on trusting that the 
     leader knows what he's doing and where he's going.
       Sending conflicting orders to soldiers on the battlefield, 
     as Mr. Trump and his administration are doing, not only 
     hampers morale and undermines allied forces like the Syrian 
     Kurds, it could also risk getting American soldiers killed or 
     wounded for objectives their commanders had already 
       Even some of Mr. Trump's most ardent supporters were 
     alarmed. ``It is a major blunder,'' a Republican senator, 
     Marco Rubio of Florida, wrote on Twitter. ``If it isn't 
     reversed it will haunt this administration & America for 
     years to come.''
       Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who 
     generally supports Mr. Trump, said he and others in the 
     national security establishment were ``blindsided'' by the 
     announcement. He called for congressional hearings on the 
       This isn't the first time the president and his 
     administration have sent mixed messages. During the 2016 
     campaign, Mr. Trump promised to withdraw troops from Syria 
     and has been looking for a way do it ever since. In April, he 
     gave the Pentagon more time to complete the mission, which 
     since the Obama era has been strictly focused on finishing 
     off the Islamic State. Then Mr. Bolton arrived on the job and 
     declared that ``we're not going to leave as long as Iranian 
     troops are outside Iranian borders, and that includes Iranian 
     proxies and militias.''
       As late as Monday, James Jeffrey, the State Department's 
     Syria envoy, told the Atlantic Council that the United States 
     would stay in Syria until ISIS was defeated, Iranian 
     influence was curbed and there was a political solution to 
     the Syrian civil war.
       But on Wednesday, Mr. Trump undercut his advisers, and 
     American interests, by reversing course and declaring in a 
     tweet, ``We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for 
     being there during the Trump Presidency.''
       There was no attempt to use the leverage of an American 
     withdrawal to achieve any specific political or military 
       Mr. Trump's assertion that the Islamic State is defeated is 
     absurd. ``We have won against ISIS,'' he boasted in a video. 
     The ability of the terrorists to strike has been 
     significantly degraded and much of the territory they claimed 
     for their so-called caliphate has been liberated. But the 
     group still retains a pocket of land on the Syria-Iraq border 
     and has roughly 20,000 to 30,000 fighters, according to 
     military researchers. As Mr. Jeffrey said Monday, ``The job 
     is not yet done.''
       No one wants American troops deployed in a war zone longer 
     than necessary. But there is no indication that Mr. Trump has 
     thought through the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal, 
     including allowing ISIS forces to regroup and create another 
     crisis that would draw the United States back into the 
       An American withdrawal would also be a gift to Vladimir 
     Putin, the Russian leader, who has been working hard to 
     supplant American influence in the region and who, on 
     Thursday, enthusiastically welcomed the decision, saying, 
     ``Donald's right.'' Another beneficiary is Iran, which has 
     also expanded its regional footprint. It would certainly make 
     it harder for the Trump administration to implement its 
     policy of ratcheting up what it calls ``maximum pressure'' on 
       Among the biggest losers are likely to be the Kurdish 
     troops that the United States has equipped and relied on to 
     fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Turkey's 
     president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, considers many of the Kurds 
     to be terrorists bent on destroying his country. In recent 
     days he has vowed to launch a new offensive against them in 
     the Syrian border region. Mr. Trump discussed his withdrawal 
     decision in a telephone call with Mr. Erdogan on Friday.

[[Page S8025]]

       The American withdrawal worries Israel, anxious about 
     Iran's robust military presence in Syria, and Jordan, which 
     bears a considerable burden from Syrian refugees who fled the 
     fighting across the border. While Israel withheld criticism 
     of Mr. Trump's decision, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 
     said his government would escalate the fight against Iranian-
     aligned forces in Syria once the Americans leave.
       Decisions of such consequence normally are thoroughly 
     vetted by a president's national security advisers. But 
     congressional lawmakers said there were no signs that any 
     process was followed, and a senior White House official, 
     refusing to discuss internal deliberations, said Wednesday, 
     ``The issue here is the president made a decision.''
       Judging from the timing and tone of Mr. Mattis' letter of 
     resignation, the president made that decision alone.

                        Tribute to James Mattis

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, like so many Republicans and Democrats, I 
was stunned to hear that Secretary Mattis was going to be leaving.
  I understand his reasons. He has said he always felt a duty to uphold 
the interests and security of the United States and to uphold our 
agreements with other countries for the security of democracy. The 
President has disagreed with him on that. He feels otherwise. So 
Secretary Mattis feels the President should be entitled to have 
somebody who takes differing views.
  Unfortunately, General Mattis's views are those that are the result 
of decades of service to this country as a marine in combat, as a 
marine commander, as a four-star general, and as one who has the strong 
respect of Republicans and Democrats alike. Certainly, he has the 
strong respect of those who have served in the military and who know 
what it means to actually stand up for this country, not just in 
rhetoric but by putting their lives on the line on the battlefield.
  I will always admire General Mattis. I applaud his service to the 
United States of America, and I know he is a man who can leave with his 
head held high.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.