Government Shutdown Enters Second Week With No Signs of Progress
The partial U.S. government shutdown enters its second week on Saturday, with nearly 14,000 workers at the Environmental Protection Agency going on furlough and the Smithsonian announcing its museums will close Jan. 2 unless the shutdown ends.
There’s been no sign of progress toward ending President Donald Trump’s standoff with Democrats over funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Smithsonian said all museums, research centers and the National Zoo will close starting Jan. 2 unless the shutdown ends. Closings would include the popular National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of African American History & Culture on the National Mall in Washington, and the Cooper Hewitt design museum in New York.
The EPA used funds already on hand to continue operation for a week, but was set to exhaust those. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that without new funds by midnight Friday, employees would be put on furlough and travel would be canceled.
Coast Guard service members almost had to miss their final paychecks of 2018. Chief Warrant Officer Chad Saylor, a spokesman, had said in an interview Friday that the service’s Dec. 31 paychecks wouldn’t be delivered because unlike other U.S. military branches, it’s under the Department of Homeland Security. The Defense Department isn’t affected by the shutdown.
Later on Friday, a Coast Guard workforce blog said the service had found a way to pay its military workforce in a “one-time action.” Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine called the move “good news” on Twitter, where she’d earlier posted that it was “not fair” that the Coast Guard members wouldn’t be paid. Collins tweeted on Friday that she’d called the White House urging an “immediate fix.”
There’s little indication of any imminent agreement to resolve the standoff before the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3. Trump is demanding $5 billion for the wall, while Democratic leaders proposed $1.3 billion for border security.
The Senate and House are set to hold brief sessions Monday but no votes are scheduled. Lawmakers will be given 24 hours notice if there’s a breakthrough that would require a vote. Trump tweeted on Friday that he would completely close the border with Mexico unless Democrats provide money for the wall and change immigration laws. If the standoff continues, all workers in the nine departments and dozens of agencies affected by the closure will miss their next paycheck on Jan. 11.
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have been negotiating with the Trump administration. Once they reach agreement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll seek a vote on the deal. Democrats take control of the House on Jan. 3, when Nancy Pelosi, who;s in line to become speaker, says the chamber will pass a spending bill to reopen the government — without money for a wall.
The shutdown, which began Dec. 22, affects nine of the 15 federal departments, dozens of agencies, and hundreds of thousands of workers. Among the departments without funding are: Justice, Homeland Security, Interior and Treasury. Independent agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, are also affected. The departments whose funding lapsed represent about a quarter of the $1.24 trillion in government discretionary spending for fiscal year 2019. An estimated 400,000 federal employees are working without pay and 350,000 are furloughed, according to a congressional Democratic aide. Federal employees working without pay and those now furloughed got their Dec. 28 paychecks under a decision by the White House budget office since pay reflects work before Dec. 21. The remaining parts of the government, including the Defense Department and the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, were already funded and won’t be affected by the shutdown, nor will mandatory entitlement programs like Medicare payments.