Bill for shutdown back pay heads to Trump’s desk

The Sun News - - Obituaries & News - BY CATHER­INE LUCEY, LISA MAS­CARO AND ZEKE MILLER

As the par­tial gov­ern­ment shutdown dragged on and leg­is­la­tion to give retroac­tive pay to fed­eral work­ers headed to him for his sig­na­ture, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tamped down ex­pec­ta­tions that he is close to declar­ing a national emer­gency to get the money he de­sires for a U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der wall.

Mean­while, about 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees, more than half still on the job, missed their first pay­check un­der a stop­page that tied a record for the long­est gov­ern­ment shutdown. With the clo­sure’s grow­ing im­pact on the econ­omy, national parks and food in­spec­tions, some Re­pub­li­cans are be­com­ing un­com­fort­able with Trump’s de­mands.

Law­mak­ers tried to re­as­sure fed­eral em­ploy­ees that Congress was aware of the fi­nan­cial hard­ship they are en­dur­ing. By a vote of 411-7, the House passed a bill re­quir­ing that all gov­ern­ment work­ers re­ceive retroac­tive pay after the par­tial shutdown ends. The Sen­ate ap­proved the bill unan­i­mously Thurs­day. The pres­i­dent is ex­pected to sign the leg­is­la­tion.

The par­tial shutdown would set a record early Satur­day, stretch­ing be­yond the 21-day clo­sure that ended Jan 6, 1996, dur­ing Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Trump vis­ited McAllen, Texas, and the Rio Grande on Thurs­day to high­light what he calls a cri­sis of drugs and crime along the bor­der. He sug­gested that if he can­not reach an agree­ment with House Democrats on fund­ing the bor­der wall, he would de­clare a national emer­gency.

But speak­ing to state and lo­cal lead­ers Fri­day, Trump said he wasn’t ready to do that just yet. He said law­mak­ers can also take that step, even though there’s no in­di­ca­tion they would.

The “easy solution is for me to call a national emer­gency … but I’m not go­ing to do it so fast,” Trump said.

By­pass­ing Congress’ con­sti­tu­tional con­trol of the na­tion’s purse strings would lead to cer­tain le­gal chal­lenges and bi­par­ti­san charges of ex­ec­u­tive over­reach. Trump said his lawyers had told him the ac­tion would with­stand le­gal scru­tiny “100 per­cent.” The wall was the cen­tral prom­ise of Trump’s win­ning cam­paign in 2016. Sup­port­ers have tried to con­vince him that an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion is the best op­tion to end the shutdown and would give him po­lit­i­cal cover to re­open the gov­ern­ment with­out ap­pear­ing to be cav­ing on his pledge.

Se­nior aide Jared Kush­ner, who trav­eled with the pres­i­dent to Texas, is among those urg­ing cau­tion on the dec­la­ra­tion, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with Kush­ner’s think­ing but not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss the issue.

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence vis­ited the Washington head­quar­ters for U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion and pledged that the ad­min­is­tra­tion will keep fight­ing for the bor­der wall.

“Just as you fight ev­ery day to keep our na­tion safe, this pres­i­dent and this ad­min­is­tra­tion will keep fight­ing to build the wall and give you the re­sources and reforms you need to do your job,” Pence told sev­eral dozen un­formed agents. “That’s my prom­ise.”

Trump is grow­ing more frus­trated as the shutdown drags on and is com­plain­ing that his aides are not of­fer­ing him an exit strat­egy.

In the mean­time, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken steps to lay the ground­work should Trump issue the dec­la­ra­tion.

The White House has di­rected the Army Corps of En­gi­neers to comb through its bud­get in search of money for the wall, in­clud­ing look­ing at $13.9 bil­lion in un­spent dis­as­ter re­lief funds ear­marked for areas in­clud­ing hur­ri­cane-dam­aged Puerto Rico, Texas and more than a dozen other states. That’s ac­cord­ing to a con­gres­sional aide and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about the re­quest.

Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., a law­maker with a close relationship with the pres­i­dent, dis­counted that op­tion, say­ing it was not “un­der very se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion.”

De­fense De­part­ment of­fi­cials had already been por­ing over data on more than $10 bil­lion in mil­i­tary con­struc­tion projects to de­ter­mine how much of it would be avail­able for emer­gency spend­ing this year.

On Fri­day, of­fi­cials in Puerto Rico said di­vert­ing dis­as­ter money to the wall was “un­ac­cept­able” and that the is­land was strug­gling to re­cover from Hur­ri­cane Maria, the Category 4 storm that hit more than a year ago and caused more than $100 bil­lion in dam­age

Gov. Ri­cardo Ros­sello said the wall should not be funded “on the pain and suf­fer­ing” of U.S. cit­i­zens who have faced tragedy after a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

It was not clear what a po­ten­tial com­pro­mise be­tween the White House and Congress might en­tail. Ef­forts at ne­go­ti­at­ing a broader im­mi­gra­tion deal in­volv­ing im­mi­grants brought to the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren col­lapsed with lit­tle progress.

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., said at one point that he didn’t “see a path in Congress” to end the shutdown, then stated later that enough was enough: “It is time for Pres­i­dent Trump to use emer­gency pow­ers to fund the con­struc­tion of a bor­der wall/bar­rier.”

MICHAEL DWYER AP

Gov­ern­ment work­ers and their sup­port­ers hold signs dur­ing a protest Fri­day in Bos­ton. Mean­while, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is grow­ing more frus­trated as the shutdown moves past its third week and is com­plain­ing that his aides are not of­fer­ing him an exit strat­egy.

AN­DREW HARNIK AP

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence on Fri­day speaks to U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion em­ploy­ees at their Washington head­quar­ters, where he pledged that the ad­min­is­tra­tion will keep fight­ing for the bor­der wall.

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