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Upstate GOP House members lay out priorities before end of 2018

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A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle is seen from Mexico while patrolling the border between the cities of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state."

Upstate Republican House members are trying to get some spending priorities accomplished before the end of the year. They are also trying to avoid a potential government shutdown over the issue of border security.

Congress passed a short-term spending bill last week to keep the government funded until just before Christmas, but President Donald Trump is insisting that a Southern Border wall get $5 billion in funding from a larger spending deal.

Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) said he empathizes with the plight of the migrant caravan at the Southern Border, where U.S. agents sprayed tear gas at those who tried to cross the border illegally last month. 

“But we also got to recognize that there is an inherent danger in just having open borders," Katko said. "If we don’t respond in an appropriate and measured fashion, I think it’s a real problem.”

Katko said while Congress passed military funding earlier this year, agencies like Homeland Security, still need funding and would be affected by a shutdown. 

Finger Lakes Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) said the border is in dire need of improvements to make sure it is secure.

“I think if we focus the conversation and the government funding situation on that, rather than a physical structure, which becomes more the political foddor and the political back and forth that can cause this to not be resolved, I think that’s the better way to deal with it,” Reed said. 

Reed said technical corrections to the tax reform law and a disaster package also need to be completed.

"We've got a lot of areas of the country, you look at the fires in California, you look at the devastating hurricanes that have occurred on the East Coast and up and down the east side of the country," Reed said. "Disaster is another area that I think we have to tackle before the end of the year."

Reed and North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) said passing a final Farm Bill is a top priority. In a statement, Stefanik's office said she is encouraged by the progress in negotiations and she is ensuring support for North Country farmers, especially dairy producers who have faced a crisis in recent years. She does not support government shutdowns and expects Congress to pass funding legislation before they break for Christmas. 

In a statement, the office of Mohawk Valley Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) said she hopes to see the federal government fully funded and the Senate take up the bill the House passed earlier this year to make the individual tax cut rates permanent. The statement also reads that Tenney wants the House to take up her bill, the "No Pensions for Corrupt Politicians Act," to ensure that those who abuse the office they hold do not receive a pension after being convicted of corruption.

Tom Magnarelli is a freelance reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area.