Pres­i­dent tweets as shutdown sets record

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Jonathan Lemire, Lisa Mascaro, Jill Colvin and Darlene Superville

WASH­ING­TON» As the par­tial govern­ment shutdown slipped into the record books Satur­day as the long­est ever, mem­bers of Congress were out of town, no ne­go­ti­a­tions were sched­uled and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted into that void.

Trump did not tip his hand on whether he will move ahead with an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion that could break the im­passe, free up money for his wall with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval and kick off le­gal chal­lenges and a po­lit­i­cal storm over the use of that ex­tra­or­di­nary step. A day ear­lier, he said he was not ready to do it “right now.”

Law­mak­ers are due back in Wash­ing­ton from their states and con­gres­sional dis­tricts in the new week.

Trump fired off a se­ries of tweets push­ing back against the no­tion that he doesn’t have a strat­egy to end what be­came the long­est govern­ment shutdown in U.S. his­tory when it en­tered its 22nd day Satur­day. “Elec­tions have con­se­quences!” he de­clared, mean­ing the 2016 elec­tion in which “I promised safety and se­cu­rity” and, as part of that, a U.s.-mex­ico bor­der wall.

But there was an­other elec­tion, in Novem­ber, and the con­se­quence of that is Democrats now con­trol the House and they refuse to give Trump money for a wall.

Trump threat­ened anew that the shutdown could con­tinue in­def­i­nitely.

He says he will sign leg­is­la­tion that has been passed by Congress to pro­vide back pay for some 800,000 fed­eral work­ers who aren’t be­ing paid dur­ing the shutdown. Pay­checks were due Fri­day, but many work­ers re­ceived stubs with ze­ros.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, trav­el­ing Satur­day in Abu Dhabi, claimed that morale is good among U.S. diplo­mats even as many work with­out pay.

“We’re do­ing our best to make sure it doesn’t im­pact our diplo­macy,” he said.

Al­most half the State De­part­ment em­ploy­ees in the U.S. and about one-quar­ter abroad have been fur­loughed dur­ing the shutdown. With the ex­cep­tion of cer­tain lo­cal em­ploy­ees over­seas, the rest are work­ing with­out pay, such as those tasked with sup­port­ing Pom­peo’s trip, which has thus far taken him to Jor­dan, Iraq, Egypt and Bahrain, with ad­di­tional stops to come.

An emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion by Trump could break the stale­mate by let­ting him use ex­ist­ing, un­spent money to build the U.s.-mex­ico bor­der wall, with­out need­ing con­gres­sional ap­proval. Democrats op­pose that step but may be un­able to stop it. Many Repub­li­cans are wary, too.

Nev­er­the­less the ad­min­is­tra­tion has ac­cel­er­ated plan­ning for it. Of­fi­cials ex­plored di­vert­ing money from a range of ac­counts,

WASH­ING­TON» The govern­ment shutdown is wreak­ing havoc on many Amer­i­cans: Hun­dreds of thou­sands of fed­eral em­ploy­ees don’t know when they will see their next pay­check, and low­in­come peo­ple who rely on the fed­eral safety net worry about whether they will make ends meet should the stale­mate in Wash­ing­ton last 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 in- def­i­nitely.

“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 record holder 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 last 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 that 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 left over from 2018, last 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 dur­ing 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. Wain­man said 17 of the 38 refuges have sched­uled hunts that would have been can­celed with­out the restaffing ef­fort.

Trump has re­fused to sign spend­ing bills for nine of the 15 Cab­i­net-level de­part­ments un­til Congress ap­proves his re­quest for $5.7 bil­lion in fund­ing to build a wall along the U.s.-mex­ico bor­der. Democrats have re­fused.

Jac­que­lyn Martin, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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