Se­lec­tive shut­down?

Pres­i­dent tries to blunt im­pact, takes the heat

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Juliet Lin­der­man

WASH­ING­TON—The gov­ern­ment shut­down is wreak­ing havoc on many Amer­i­cans: Hun­dreds of thou­sands of fed­eral em­ploy­ees don’t know when they’ll see their next pay­check, and low-in­come peo­ple who rely on the fed­eral safety net worry about whether they’ll make ends meet should the stale­mate in Wash­ing­ton carry on an­other month.

But if you’re a sportsman look­ing to hunt game, a gas com­pany plan­ning to drill off­shore or a tax­payer await­ing your re­fund , you’re in luck: This shut­down won’t af­fect your plans.

All ad­min­is­tra­tions get some lee­way to choose which ser­vices to freeze and which to main­tain when a bud­get stand­off in Wash­ing­ton forces some agen­cies to shut­ter. But in the se­lec­tive re­open­ing of

of­fices, ex­perts say they see a will­ing­ness to cut cor­ners, scrap prior plans and wade into legally du­bi­ous ter­ri­tory to mit­i­gate the pain. Some noted the choices seem tar­geted at shield­ing the Repub­li­can-lean­ing vot­ers whom Trump and his party need to stick with them. The cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect is a gov­ern­ment shut­down—now of­fi­cially the long­est in U.S. his­tory—that some Amer­i­cans may find fi­nan­cially desta­bi­liz­ing and oth­ers may hardly no­tice. Rus­sell T. Vought, deputy di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get, said the over­ar­ch­ing mes­sage from Trump has been “to make this shut­down as pain­less as pos­si­ble, con­sis­tent with the law.” “We have built on past ef­forts within this ad­min­is­tra­tion not to have the shut­down be used to be weaponized against the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he said. Oth­ers say such a strat­egy sug­gests a lack of ur­gency and a will­ing­ness to let the po­lit­i­cal im­passe in Wash­ing­ton drag on in­def­i­nitely. “The strat­egy seems to be to keep the shut­down in place, not worry about the ef­fect on em­ploy­ees and fur­loughed peo­ple and con­trac­tors, but where the pub­lic might be an­noyed, give a lit­tle,” said Al­ice Rivlin, who led OMB dur­ing the 21-day shut­down in 1996, the pre­vi­ous record­holder for the long­est in his­tory. That’s a clear dif­fer­ence be­tween then and now, Rivlin said. “We weren’t try­ing to make it bet­ter. We were try­ing to em­pha­size the pain so it would be over,” she said. “We wanted it to end. I’m not con­vinced the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion does.” The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ear­lier this week an­nounced that the IRS will is­sue tax re­funds dur­ing the shut­down, cir­cum­vent­ing a 2011 de­ci­sion bar­ring the agency from dis­tribut­ing re­funds un­til the Trea­sury De­part­ment is funded. The Na­tional Trea­sury Em­ploy­ees Union filed a law­suit, ar­gu­ing its work­ers are be­ing un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally forced to re­turn to work with­out pay. Some agen­cies are find­ing cre­ative ways to fund ser­vices they want to re­store. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has em­pha­sized con­tin­ued use of pub­lic lands in gen­eral, and par­tic­u­larly for hunters and oil and gas de­vel­op­ers, an­ger­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, us­ing funds left­over from 2018, this week an­nounced it will di­rect dozens of wildlife refuges to re­turn staffers to work, en­sur­ing planned ac­tiv­i­ties on those lands, in­clud­ing or­ga­nized hunts, con­tinue. Bar­bara Wain­man, a spokes­woman for the agency, said most refuges have re­mained ac­ces­si­ble to hunters through­out the shut­down, and the de­ci­sion to staff them was made based on three cri­te­ria: re­source man­age­ment, high vis­i­ta­tion and pre­vi­ously sched­uled pro­gram­ming, which in­cludes or­ga­nized hunts and school field trips.

As­so­ci­ated Press

■ The Capi­tol Dome is seen through a sky­light in the Capi­tol Vis­i­tors Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton.

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