Sides still far apart in U.S. shutdown
‘I am in the White House ready to sign,’ he says amid impasse
The longest U.S. government shutdown in history grinds into a fourth week with the sides still far apart as unpaid workers feel the pinch.
WASHINGTON — The longest federal government shutdown in U.S. 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.”
Meanwhile, many lawmakers were back home hearing from frustrated constituents, including Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, who held town hall meetings Saturday in south eastern Pennsylvania.
There, she said in an interview, she heard from a schoolteacher afraid the local food bank would no longer be able to offer meals for her students; the operator of a federally funded women’s shelter that is now having to turn people away; and a tax preparer who could not begin securing refunds for her indigent clients because the IRS had not made the necessary software available.
“It’s disappointing to say the least, because the things that I ran on and that many of the people who just came into this Congress ran on, are getting lost in this nonsense,” Houlahan said.
While they may never be precisely calculated, the costs of the shutdown are likely already into the billions, and they continue to mount. Beyond the likely cost of paying furloughed employees for work not done, additional costs include eventual overtime costs to deal with backlogs of work and the indirect impacts of various shuttered programs and services.
The Obama administration estimated the direct costs of the twoweek October 2013 shutdown at $2.5 billion, while estimating another $2 billion to $6 billion
in lost economic output. Those figures did not include other fiscal impacts, including millions in lost user fees and interest owed on late federal payments.
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. Trump said Friday that he would sign it.
In past shutdowns, both furloughed and non-furloughed 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.
“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!”
A U.S. Park Police officer rode across Pennsylvania Avenue during the shutdown’s 22nd day on Saturday.