Stefanik: decision on DHS funding was not difficult
WATERTOWN — Rep. Elise M. Stefanik said her decision to vote for a clean funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security was not difficult.
“Every day of the week I will put the interests of the district first,” Ms. Stefanik said. “Plain and simple, I’m not going to vote to shut the government down. I’m not going to vote to shut down the Department of Homeland Security.”
Congress narrowly averted a shutdown of DHS by approving a one-week extension of funding for the department. Ms. Stefanik said that Friday she supported a bill passed by the Senate that removed language undoing President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. That bill was not approved by the House, as Republicans continued to disagree about how to counteract what they have characterized as the president’s abuse of executive authority. The temporary stopgap measure was approved by vote of 357 to 60.
For Ms. Stefanik, who ran on a platform of “crossing the aisle” to find “bipartisan solutions,” Friday’s vote represented an opportunity to make good on her promises.
“I ran on getting away from this type of Washington dysfunction,” she said Sunday.
It also represented the end of her second month in office after a historic victory as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
In February, Ms. Stefanik opened district offices in Glens Falls and Plattsburgh, hired a legislative assistant for military affairs, was named vice-chairwoman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and traveled to the Middle East.
During the February recess, Ms. Stefanik toured parts of Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan with other members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Ms. Stefanik and Representatives Seth Moulton, D-Mass., Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and Brad Ashford, D-Neb., met with officials including King Abdullah II of Jordan and Iraqi President Fuad Masum.
Though some have questioned the wisdom or necessity of the trip, Ms. Stefanik said it was worth the time and money.
“There is no question that getting briefings from military commanders on the ground in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq is a more effective way to learn than in hearing rooms,” Ms. Stefanik said.
Ms. Stefanik said one of the most valuable parts of the trip was meeting with troops from New York serving overseas and hearing their perspectives on issues both at home and abroad.
“It was an extraordinary privilege for me to be a part of the meetings with the soldiers in the district and show them our support but also to educate myself on some of the key challenges we’re facing in Afghanistan and Iraq,” she said.
For Ms. Stefanik, the month was filled with small victories — legislation on Section 529 College Savings Plans, charitable contributions and grant funding for science, technology, engineering and math programs — and frustrations, including President Obama’s veto of a bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Supporters of the pipeline, including Republicans in Congress, have hailed the project as a “jobs creator” and a way to strengthen energy policy and relations with Canada, while environmentalists have decried the pipeline as an ecologically unsound project that will only exacerbate the reliance on fossil fuels.
But with stories of train derailments and explosions becoming more frequent, Ms. Stefanik cited safety as one of the many reasons she is supporting the pipeline.
“The perspective I have from our district is the oil trains that are going at very high speeds throughout parts of the 21st district, in many cases right along waterways and lakes. ... They’re very unsafe,” Ms. Stefanik said.
The job-creating aspect of the project has been called into question.
According to a State Department report about the pipeline, spending on the project would support 42,100 “direct, indirect and induced” jobs, including 3,900 direct construction jobs over a two-year period.
Following construction, the project would generate 50 jobs during operations, the report said.
“I’m pretty confident in standing by the assessment that this will create tens of thousands of jobs,” Ms. Stefanik said.
Ms. Stefanik will be one of the speakers during a listening session March 20 about the future of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. She said she has invited other members of the New York state delegation in Washington to attend as well.
“My colleagues on the Armed Services Committee know that I am the go-to person for Fort Drum and I will protect Fort Drum at all costs,” she said.
Representatives Richard Hanna, R-Utica, John Katko, R-Syracuse, and Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, are expected to visit the post this month, Ms. Stefanik said.
Circling back to the immigration issue and fight over funding the DHS, Ms. Stefanik said she wanted to see immigration issues solved by the legislative process rather than executive action but that they should be separated from the debate over funding the department.
“We have to stop the policymaking of coming to the brink with discussions of government shutdown,” Ms. Stefanik said. “I support and I am urging leadership to bring up the clean Senate bill, which will provide long-term continuity through September. I am optimistic that if that is brought to the floor it will pass with Democrats and some Republicans.”