Con­gress ap­proves back pay as shut­down nears record


The par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down was on track Fri­day to be­come the long­est clo­sure in U.S. his­tory as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and ner­vous Repub­li­cans scram­bled to find a way out of the mess. A so­lu­tion couldn’t come soon enough for fed­eral work­ers who got pay state­ments Fri­day but no pay.

The House and Se­nate voted to give fed­eral work­ers back pay when­ever the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­opens and then left town for the week­end, leav­ing the shut­down on track to be­come one for the record books once the clock struck mid­night and the clo­sure en­tered its 22nd day. The bill passed Fri­day re­quires that all em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing those who have been fur­loughed, be paid as soon as pos­si­ble once the gov­ern­ment re­opens.

The bill now heads to Trump, who is ex­pected to sign it.

While Trump pri­vately con­sid­ered one dra­matic es­cape route – declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency to build the wall without a new stream of cash from Con­gress – mem­bers of his own party were fiercely de­bat­ing that idea, and the pres­i­dent urged Con­gress to come up with an­other so­lu­tion.

“What we’re not look­ing to do right now is na­tional emer­gency,” Trump said. He in­sisted that he had the au­thor­ity to do that, adding that he’s “not go­ing to do it so fast” be­cause he’d still pre­fer to work a deal with Con­gress.

About 800,000 work­ers missed pay­checks Fri­day, many re­ceiv­ing blank pay state­ments. Some posted pho­tos of their empty earn­ings state­ments on so­cial me­dia as a ral­ly­ing cry to end the shut­down, a jar­ring im­age that many in the White House feared could turn more vot­ers against the pres­i­dent as he holds out for bil­lions in new wall fund­ing.

With polls show­ing Trump get­ting most of the blame for the shut­down, the ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cel­er­ated plan­ning for a pos­si­ble emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion to try to get around Con­gress and fund the wall from ex­ist­ing sources of fed­eral rev­enue. The White House ex­plored di­vert­ing money for wall con­struc­tion from a range of other ac­counts. One idea be­ing con­sid­ered was di­vert­ing some of the $13.9 bil­lion al­lo­cated to the Army Corps of En­gi­neers after last year’s deadly hurri- canes and floods.

That op­tion trig­gered an out­cry from of­fi­cials in Puerto Rico and some states re­cov­er­ing from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, and ap­peared to lose steam on Fri­day.

Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som called it an “un­con­scionable” idea to look at us­ing dis­as­ter as­sis­tance “to pay for an im­moral wall that Amer­ica doesn’t need or want.”

Repub­li­can Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas told re- porters after dis­cus­sions with the White House: “I feel con­fi­dent dis­as­ter re­lief dol­lars will not be tapped.” Brady said the ad­min­is­tra­tion was look­ing at the “breadth” of un­spent dol­lars in other gov­ern­ment ac­counts.

Other pos­si­bil­i­ties in­cluded tap­ping as­set for­fei­ture funds, in­clud­ing money seized by the De­part­ment of Jus­tice from drug king­pins, ac­cord­ing to a con­gres­sional Repub­li­can not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions. The White House also was look­ing at mil­i­tary con­struc­tion funds, an­other po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult choice be­cause the money would be di­verted from a back­log of hun­dreds of projects at bases around the na­tion.

De­spite Trump’s goslow mes­sage, mo­men­tum grew in some cor­ners for some sort of emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion. Repub­li­can Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, who met with the pres­i­dent on Fri­day, took to Twit­ter after­ward to urge: “Mr. Pres­i­dent, De­clare a na­tional emer­gency NOW. Build a wall NOW.”

Trump has been coun­seled by out­side ad­vis­ers to move to­ward a na­tional emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion, but many in the White House are try­ing to pump the brakes. Se­nior aide Jared Kush­ner, who trav­eled with the pres­i­dent to the Texas bor­der on Thurs­day, was among those op­posed to the dec­la­ra­tion, ar­gu­ing to the pres­i­dent that pur­su­ing a broader im­mi­gra­tion deal was a bet­ter op­tion. A per­son fa­mil­iar with White House think­ing said that in meet­ings this week, the mes­sage was that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is in no rush and wants to con­sider var­i­ous op­tions. The per­son was unau­tho­rized to dis­cuss pri­vate ses­sions and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

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.


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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.