Katko Opening Statement in Full Committee Markup
Ranking Member Katko’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m pleased we are having this markup today, just a few days after we reflected on the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11th that forever changed our nation twenty-one years ago.
As we consider the legislation proposed today, I encourage us all to keep in mind the mission given to the Department of Homeland Security when it was created in the wake of those devastating attacks and what our priorities must be.
As the threat landscape has changed, the mission of DHS is more vital now than ever before, and there is significant work to be done to ensure that mission is achieved. We must make sure that DHS does not lose its way.
This leads me to the deep concerns that I and many of my colleagues, as well as many American taxpayers, had with the recent, troubling attempt by Secretary Mayorkas to stand up an ill-conceived “Disinformation Governance Board” without any engagement or notice to Congress.
Unveiled without any transparency, the botched rollout of the Disinformation Governance Board appeared to many as an attempt by DHS to forge a political tool, headed by a known partisan operative, that would dictate the government’s definition of “truth” to the American People. For that reason, I am pleased to support the Resolution of Inquiry before us today, which seeks to pull back the curtain on this troubling effort.
The attempted establishment of the Disinformation Governance Board proves that – despite the increasing frequency of cyber-attacks against our critical infrastructure, a terrorist safe haven re-establishing in Afghanistan, and an out-of-control crisis at our southern border – the priorities of the Biden Administration are grossly misplaced.
I’m also pleased we are considering a Resolution of Inquiry from my friend and colleague, Representative Meijer, related to this Administration’s horrific humanitarian and national security crisis at our southern border – one they still refuse to acknowledge.
President Biden has still not visited the border to see the situation for himself, and just this week, Vice President Harris erroneously claimed the border is secure and a priority for the Biden Administration – a claim the reality on the ground clearly belies. While the Department may claim otherwise, truthful information on this crisis is often suppressed by the Administration, only coming to light through media scrutiny or Congressional oversight.
To date, we are approaching 3.5 million migrant encounters at the Southwest border since President Biden took office.
That is greater than the population of more than 20 states – an absolutely staggering figure. And the situation is only getting worse.
As of July, 66 people whose names appear on the terror watchlist were stopped trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry this fiscal year. We only know this thanks to the tireless efforts of Republicans on this Committee, especially Representative Pfluger. CBP has seized enough fentanyl this fiscal year to kill almost 2.4 billion people, over seven times the U.S. population, with almost 1,200 pounds being recorded just in July – the largest fentanyl seizure in history.
All we are seeking is answers and transparency on behalf of the American People, and I encourage my Democratic colleagues to join us in seeking this information.
In addition to the crisis at the southwest border, we must also not forget the vulnerabilities of our maritime border. Migrant surges, human smuggling, drug trafficking, and other illicit activity continue to greatly challenge our homeland security in the maritime sector.
I commend Representative Correa and Representative Gimenez for leading the reauthorization of the Department’s Joint Task Force authority to tackle these ongoing challenges and support the frontline personnel carrying out these critical operations, including the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security Investigations.
The Committee will also consider legislation today aimed at redirecting taxpayer dollars allocated for homeland security research and development towards the Biden Administration’s climate goals.
Unfortunately, with the litany of security crises facing the homeland from relentless cyber threats, a wide open southwest border, and resurgent terrorist groups, I do not believe that critical DHS research and development efforts should be redirected for this purpose.
Again, I would like to thank Representative Meijer and all my Republican colleagues for remaining focused on the safety and security of the American people.
It’s unfortunate that we need Resolutions of Inquiry to face these important issues like the deteriorating security and humanitarian disaster at the southwest border, but I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to find solutions to these challenges.