Yielding to mounting pressure from both sides of the aisle, President Trump agreed to back a short-term funding bill to reopen the government that does not include the requested $5.7 billion to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The short-term deal would fund the government through Feb. 15. Trump said he would use that time to negotiate border security funding. Oh, and pay the thousands of federal workers hurt by the shutdown.
“I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly or as soon as possible,” Trump said.
Approximately 800,000 federal employees, and an estimated 3,450 federal workers in Nevada, have been hurt by the government shutdown.
“While reopening the government is long overdue, I will not celebrate a temporary reprieve to a politically motivated crisis that has left many federal employees in anguish over how to pay their bills, feed their families, and keep a roof over their heads,” J . David Cox Sr., the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement. “Over the next three weeks, Congress must pass full-year appropriations for all government agencies as well legislation to make all affected federal employees whole. We are also urging Congress to act to prevent the use of shutdowns from ever occurring again.”
While federal workers will receive back pay for the time they are owed, at the moment that doesn’t apply to contractors.
“Thousands of federal contractor and subcontractors across the country are currently furloughed or being forced to work without pay,” U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement announcing her co-sponsorship of legislation to provide back pay for federal contractors. “Yet, unlike most federal workers, these contractors currently have no guarantee of receiving back pay, meaning this shutdown could do irreparable harm to their families and finances. This legislation will ensure critical support staff including janitorial, food service and security contractors who may face increased financial difficulties are protected from the harm of this senseless shutdown.”
Cortez Masto’s office did not have an estimate of the number of contractors in Nevada hurt by the shutdown.
Throughout the shutdown, Trump repeatedly said he would not reopen the government without money for his long-promised wall at the southern border. Thursday’s defeat of competing proposals from Trump and the Democrats on the Senate floor increased urgency among both parties to reopen agencies while Congress negotiates a final spending bill.
“It took far too long for this senseless Trump tantrum to come to an end,” said U.S. Rep. Dina Titus in a statement. “Over a month ago, Donald Trump said he would be ‘proud’ to shut down the government. Trump’s shutdown forced over 3,500 federal workers in Nevada to miss two paychecks, strained our airports, curtailed food inspections, and made it harder for FBI agents to take criminals off our streets.”
Cortez Masto called for parties to work quickly to repay the federal workers. “Congress must act immediately to end this senseless shutdown and ensure federal workers in Nevada and across the country receive their paychecks as quickly as possible,” said Cortez Masto in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford added that “simply reopening the government won’t help them pay the late fees and fines they’ve been charged over the past 35 days.”
“Congress has an obligation to ensure Nevadans are made whole for all of the financial costs they’ve incurred during this wasteful and senseless shutdown,” he said. “I will continue working with my colleagues to make sure Nevada families receive every penny they are owed.”
Via statement, U.S. Rep. Susie Lee wrote it “breaks my heart to know that for over a month these public servants have missed two paychecks, fallen behind on their bills, and were forced to go on food stamps, all because of partisan games that have could have been resolved on day one.”
“Now that the President and Senate have finally stopped using these people as bargaining chips, I am hopeful that we can work to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes improvements to our border security,” Lee said.
“Funding our government from one continuing resolution to another is no way to run a country,” Lee said. “I truly hope that everyone on both sides of the aisle can come together and pass an actual budget so that this never has to happen to our hardworking public servants again.”
But this could very well happen again in less than a month. On Friday, Trump warned the government could shut down again without funding for the border wall included in the budget, or he alluded he could declare a national emergency to fund the wall.
While he thanked federal workers, including border control agents and ICE, who continued to work through the shutdown without pay, he spent the majority of his speech arguing, yet again, for the wall.
He said he never proposed or wanted a “concrete wall from sea to shining sea” adding that his proposed border wall would be outfitted with “smart walls” with “see through visibility” that are “equipped with sensors monitors and cutting edge technology including state of the art drones.”
Trump said Democrats have “fully acknowledged” the importance of “barriers” “fencing” and “walls” as an important part border security and immigration control.
In their statements, many of the lawmakers address border security. Cortez Masto said now that the government in reopened the Senate can work on a bipartisan measure to secure the U.S. border.
Sen. Jacky Rosen wrote on Twitter: “While I’m relieved the President has finally agreed to end the shutdown, our work is not done. I am prepared to work with my colleagues to find sensible, bipartisan solutions so that this never happens to our country again.”
Titus also vowed to pursue immigration reform and protect Dreamers once the shutdown was over adding that the “symbol of America must always be the Statue of Liberty, not an ineffective border wall.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, viewed by many as having repeatedly outmaneuvered Trump during the standoff, was asked Friday to assess how the president would handle being forced to capitulate. She responded dismissively:
Pelosi, asked how Trump will handle backdown on reopening government without wall money, gestures toward her office decorations: “we could plant these flowers along the border and he’d say, ‘I got my wall.’ “
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) January 25, 2019
Meantime, while Trump’s decision to allow the government to reopen without his wall was welcomed by many, is also prompted derision from the right.
Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 25, 2019
Congress was hoping to move a bill through both houses and get it to Trump’s desk by Friday evening.