Shut­down en­ters 4th week with no deal yet

Trump says that un­less Dems budge, ‘we will be out for a long time’

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - NATION & WORLD - BY MIKE DEBO­NIS

WASH­ING­TON — The long­est fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down in Amer­i­can his­tory ground into a fourth week Satur­day with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump show­ing fresh de­fi­ance on Twit­ter, con­gres­sional Democrats firmly re­solved to re­sist his calls for a bor­der wall, and un­paid work­ers caught in the mid­dle.

“We will be out for a long time un­less the Democrats come back from their ‘va­ca­tions’ and get back to work,” Trump tweeted Satur­day morn­ing. “I am in the White House ready to sign!”

Trump’s state­ments came a day af­ter some 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees missed an ex­pected pay­check and af­ter he tamped down spec­u­la­tion that he might de­clare a na­tional emer­gency to be­gin con­struc­tion on his wall and break the im­passe. In­stead, he told re­porters Fri­day, “we want Congress to do its job.”

Fed­eral work­ers who have been forced to work with­out pay have started go­ing to the courts to chal­lenge the shut­down.

The Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Fed­eral Em­ploy­ees, the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees Or­ga­ni­za­tion and the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ma­chin­ists and Aero­space Work­ers — rep­re­sent­ing a com­bined 244,000 mem­bers work­ing in coastal Vir­ginia, South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, cen­tral Mon­tana and the Wash­ing­ton area — filed suit in the U.S. Court of Fed­eral Claims on Fri­day, de­mand­ing full com­pen­sa­tion for time and over­time worked over the three weeks of the shut­down.

“This law­suit is not com­pli­cated: We do not be­lieve it is law­ful to com­pel a per­son to work with­out pay­ing them,” said the fed­er­a­tion’s pres­i­dent, Randy Er­win, in a state­ment.

“With this law­suit we’re say­ing, ‘No, you can’t pay work­ers with I.O.U.s. That will not work for us.”

Congress on Fri­day passed leg­is­la­tion to guar­an­tee back pay for all work­ers af­fected by the shut­down — both those who have been fur­loughed and those who have con­tin­ued work­ing as per­son­nel deemed es­sen­tial to the pro­tec­tion of life and prop­erty. The White House has not in­di­cated if Trump would sign it.

In past shut­downs, both fur­loughed and non­fur­loughed work­ers have got­ten back pay, though fed­eral con­trac­tors and their em­ploy­ees are gen­er­ally left un­com­pen­sated.

In his tweets Satur­day, Trump re­acted sharply to a tele­vised com­ment that he lacks a strategy for end­ing the shut­down. The tweets came shortly af­ter an NBC “To­day” panel with net­work re­porters Peter Alexan­der and Kris­ten Welker, as well as Wash­ing­ton Post reporter Philip Rucker, dis­cussed the topic.

“I do have a plan on the Shut­down,” he said. “But to un­der­stand that plan you would have to un­der­stand the fact that I won the elec­tion, and I promised safety and se­cu­rity for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Part of that prom­ise was a Wall at the South­ern Bor­der. Elec­tions have con­se­quences!”

But Democrats are fully aware of their own man­date — par­tic­u­larly in the House, where the party gained the ma­jor­ity for the first time in eight years by win­ning 40 seats in a midterm elec­tion suf­fused with Trump’s apoc­a­lyp­tic warn­ings about the threats posed by il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Be­fore law­mak­ers left Wash­ing­ton on Fri­day, House Mi­nor­ity Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., at­tempted to make a sim­i­lar point as Trump did Satur­day about the 2016 elec­tion in a floor ex­change with Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

“He was elected by the Amer­i­can peo­ple as pres­i­dent to carry out bor­der se­cu­rity and build a wall,” Scalise said. “It was part of the na­tional de­bate. I know some peo­ple on your side don’t even want to rec­og­nize that that elec­tion oc­curred and the re­sult. But it hap­pened.”

Replied Hoyer: “Oh no, I think there was an elec­tion, and he did raise that ques­tion. And as I re­call, that’s why I’m the ma­jor­ity leader and you’re the mi­nor­ity whip.”

Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion work­ers who manned check­points on Dec. 22 will be paid, despite the fed­eral shut­down that be­gan the pre­vi­ous day, and they also will re­ceive a $500 bonus for work­ing dur­ing the busy Christ­mas sea­son.

The pay­ment for work that Satur­day and the bonus money are an ef­fort by TSA Ad­min­is­tra­tor David Pekoske to soften the blow to his work­ers and en­cour­age them to re­main on the job af­ter they missed their first pay­check on Fri­day.

The bonus and an es­ti­mated $150 to $200 in Satur­day pay should be re­ceived by TSA work­ers early this week.

The Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees, which rep­re­sents union­ized TSA work­ers, warned for more than a week that its mem­bers would be un­able to get to their jobs if they didn’t get paid.

The TSA re­ported that 5.6 per­cent of its 51,000 work­ers did not show up Fri­day, com­pared to 3.3 per­cent who had un­sched­uled ab­sences on Jan. 13, 2018.

The TSA said it screened 1.96 mil­lion pas­sen­gers na­tion­wide on Fri­day, with vir­tu­ally all of them clear­ing check­points within the agency’s 30-minute stan­dard and 95 per­cent of them wait­ing less than 15 min­utes.

“Most im­por­tantly, se­cu­rity stan­dards re­main un­com­pro­mised at our na­tion’s air­ports,” said TSA spokesman Jim Gre­gory in an email.

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