Shut­down en­ters its 4th week

Groups rep­re­sent­ing 244,000 fed­eral work­ers sue gov­ern­ment for pay

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - 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 bor­der 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, 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 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,” the fed­er­a­tion’s pres­i­dent, RE­LATED STO­RIES: A3, A7

Randy Er­win, said 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 all 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.”

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