Trump at­tempts to blunt shut­down im­pact

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - 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 low­in­come 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.”

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