Kansas First District Congressman Roger Marshall is hoping for a swift resolution to the partial federal government shutdown and ensuing partisan stalemate over Mexican border security that has now dragged on for two weeks.
But, California Democratic congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as speaker of the house Thursday. Then, she and the Democratically led House voted to reopen the government, without the $5.7 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a border wall with Mexico.
This wall and the money to pay for it are the key sticking point splitting House Democrats, and the Republican-held Senate and the president. So, the House’s reopening plan may be dead on arrival in the Senate.
Still, heading into the weekend, Pelosi, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump and other congressional leaders continued to meet for further negotiations, said Marshall. He fell in line with other House Republicans in voting against the Pelosi proposal.
“We hope they will be coming up with some solutions,” he said.
The border wall with Mexico and the border security it represents to Trump and many fellow Republicans, including Marshall, are key.
“He wants $5.7 billion for the wall and I think we should give it to him,” the congressman said, adding that, after all, president is in charge of our national security. It is not a “made-up number,” and includes funds not only for the wall, but other security measures.
Somehow,he said, the wall and immigration reform have gotten inextricably linked. But, “they are not mutually exclusive. We can have both security and immigration.”
Such issues as the much debated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Dream Act) are still on the table, Marshall said.
“From a Kansas standpoint, I am deeply interested in immigration reform,” he said. He cited temporary agriculture work visas as an example of another valuable program.
But, the wall and everything the $5.7 billion covers is a must, he said. “I am willing to stand on that and fight.”
How is the shutdown being felt?
Because this is a partial shutdown, impacts are more limited than past ones, Marshall said. “Many Kansans won’t see a direct impact, but the longer this goes, the more we will see those impacts.”
In fact, he said only 10 percent of the government has been shuttered. “We have not had one phone call or one email from anyone (in the First District) that this has affected.”
That’s not to say it isn’t an important matter, said. And, it must be resolved.
Some areas affected in the Golden Belt and Kansas include:
• Fort Larned National Historic Site is closed.
• The USDA had to close Farm Service Agency offices. They were able to stay open and continue processing trade assistance payment up until Dec. 28, a week after the shutdown began, but now are closed.
• Nearly all of the Rural Development grant and loan programs have been temporarily shut down.
• Federally supported research is affected. Kansas is such a leader in research institutions. For those that are in federal facilities, many projects are shut down, except for activities to preserve ongoing projects. For research supported by federal funds but carried out at a university like K-State or Wichita State, the research should be able to continue – but researchers are likely seeing delays in receiving funds or associated paperwork.
• But government contractors won’t get paid for the time they lose staying home. One of the biggest examples is a processing company that has a contract with the federal government to package food for food banks. They are still responsible for millions of dollars of deliveries (and fines if they don’t deliver them on time) – but aren’t getting paid. That can create a real cash flow issue.
What does the shutdown mean?
WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) – Many agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, are already funded for the year and will continue to operate as usual, regardless of whether Congress and the president reach agreement this week.
In all, about 75 percent of discretionary spending for the budget year that began Oct. 1 has already been approved by lawmakers and signed by Trump.
Still, the dispute could affect nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks and forests. More than 800,000 federal employees would see their jobs disrupted, including more than half who would be forced to continue working without pay.
The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, wouldn’t be affected by any government shutdown because it’s an independent agency.
What’s open and what’s closed
Social Security checks will go out and troops will remain at their posts. Doctors and hospitals will receive their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. The U.S. Postal Service is an independent agency and won’t be affected. Passport services, which are funded by fees and not government spending, will also continue.
Virtually every essential government agency, including the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, will remain open. Transportation Security Administration officers will staff airport checkpoints.
The air traffic control system, food inspection, Medicare, veterans’ health care and many other essential government programs will run as usual. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Environmental Protection Agency can continue to respond to disasters.
Nearly 90 percent of the Department of Homeland Security’s 240,000 employees will be at work because they’re considered essential.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which is investigating potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, is unaffected by a shutdown. But in New York, the chief judge of Manhattan federal courts has suspended work on civil cases involving U.S. government lawyers, including several civil lawsuits in which Trump himself is a defendant.
As hundreds of thousands of federal workers are forced off the job, some services will go dark.
Farmers hardest hit by the trade war with China may have to wait for a second round of direct payments from the Agriculture Department, and new farm loans will be put on hold.
In the past, the vast majority of national parks were closed to visitors and campers, but beginning with the last government shutdown, in January, the Interior Department has tried to make parks as accessible as possible despite bare-bones staffing levels. Some are staying open thanks to funding from states and charitable groups, but others are locked off.
In Washington, popular museums, art galleries and the National Zoo have remained open by using unspent funds, but the money is running out and they will close starting midweek if the shutdown continues.
Federal workers still get paid — eventually
While they can be kept on the job, federal workers won’t be paid for days worked during the lapse in funding. In the past, however, they have been repaid retroactively even if they were ordered to stay home. The Senate already has passed legislation ensuring that workers will receive back pay. The House seems sure to follow suit.
But government contractors won’t get paid for the time they lose staying home, causing problems for those who rely on hourly wages.
Federal workers are exempted from furloughs if their jobs are national security-related or if they perform essential activities that “protect life and property.”
Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and are working unpaid, unable to take any sick days or vacation, including about 40,000 law enforcement and corrections officers. The Homeland Security employees who will keep working include about 150,000 from the Coast Guard, TSA and Customs and Border Protection.
An additional 380,000 are staying home without pay. They include nearly all from NASA and Housing and Urban Development and about 40,000 from the Commerce Department. About 16,000 National Park Service employees — 80 percent of the agency’s workforce — are furloughed.
Also among those furloughed are 52,000 staffers at the Internal Revenue Service, slowing analysis and collection of hundreds of thousands of tax returns and audits.