US House Passes Bill To Reopen Some Agencies Shut Down Amid Border Wall Row

WASHINGTON: The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives voted on Friday to restore funding for federal agencies that have been shut down by a fight with President Donald Trump over border wall funding, as some 800,000 government workers, from tax collectors to FBI agents, missed their first paycheck.

But a full resumption of government operations did not appear in sight because Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not bring the House bill up for a vote. Republicans who control the Senate have so far stood with Trump and insisted that any spending bills include money for his wall.

The House bill, which passed 240-179 with only a handful of Republicans supporting it, would restore funding for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, two of the agencies that have been without funding since Dec. 22 amid the standoff over the proposed wall along the US-Mexico border. The bill provides $35.9 billion in discretionary funding, $6 billion above Trump's budget request and $601 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level.

Facing the prospect of the longest US government shutdown in history, Trump has said he might declare a national emergency to bypass Congress to get funding for his wall, which was a central promise of his 2016 presidential campaign.

"Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border," Trump said on Twitter on Friday, a day after he visited the Texas-Mexico border. "I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!"

Entering its 21st day, the partial shutdown on Friday tied the record for the longest in US history. Some 800,000 federal workers did not receive paychecks that would have gone out on Friday. Some have resorted to selling their possessions or posting appeals on online fundraising outlets to help pay their bills.

"Most of them are living from paycheck to paycheck and now they approach this day on Friday having moved from paycheck to no check," Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings said in debate on the House floor.

The head of the US Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, warned employees that financial stress can lead to depression and anxiety. "Keep an eye out for warning signs of trouble," Director RD "Tex" Alles wrote in a memo seen by Reuters.

House approves back pay

The House also passed a bill by a bipartisan vote of 411-7 that would provide back pay to federal workers once the shutdown ends. That legislation, which has already been passed by the Senate, now heads to Trump's desk to be signed into law.

Separately, Senator Rob Portman and eight other Republican senators introduced legislation that would permanently outlaw the closing of government operations during budget fights, underscoring the growing frustration in Washington.

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged that Mexico would pay for the wall, which he says is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs. But the Mexican government has refused and Trump is now demanding that Congress provide $5.7 billion in US taxpayer funding for the wall.

Democrats in Congress call the wall an ineffective, outdated answer to a complex problem.

With no Capitol Hill compromise in sight, Trump publicly ruminated on Thursday during the Texas trip about declaring an emergency.

A close Trump confidant judged the time for such a step had come. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement: "It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier. I hope it works."

Critics of the national emergency strategy have said it may be illegal. In any case, it was almost certain to trigger an immediate court challenge from Democrats, including an accusation of trying to circumvent Congress' power over the national purse strings.

An emergency declaration would come with risks. Even some of Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress have signaled worries about such an action. Given that the Constitution gives Congress the power to set spending priorities and appropriate money, they worry about a tough legal fight and an unwise precedent.

"I don't think he should do that. It's a bad precedent," Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said on CNBC. "It seems to me that

An emergency declaration, however, would allow the government to be fully reopened while the judges weigh the case, which could take months.

Before the shutdown began, Trump said he would be "proud" to close the government over the issue of border security and would not blame Democrats, although he later did.

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US: Federal Workers March On White House Against Trump Shutdown

Federal employees marched in front of the White House, chanting slogans which included "We Want Our Pay!", "Stop The Shutdown!" and "We Want to Work!"

United States federal employees launched protests Thursday in different cities to demand the end of the administration's partial government closure, which has been paralyzing the country for the last 20 days, due to President Donald Trump's steady desire for border wall funding.

RELATED: US: Union Sues Trump Administration Over Government Shutdown

"Thousands of hard-working Americans are being excluded from their jobs for no other reason than the politics of fear. Shame on the Senate! Shame on the White House!," Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO - the largest union platform in the country, declared.

On the 20th day of a partial shutdown, furloughed federal employees marched in front of the White House, chanting slogans which included "We Want Our Pay!", "Stop The Shutdown!" and "We Want to Work!"

One of them, Elaine Suriano, a 62-year-old environmental protection agency scientist, said she will be forced to dip into her retirement savings if the shutdown continues. "It's just clear that [Trump] administration doesn't understand normal people and real life or they wouldn't do this," Suriano said.

Mathew Crichton, a Peace Corps employee, said uncertainty over how long the shutdown will last made it impossible to budget for food, lodging and other needs. "It could go on another day, and it could go on more weeks. It could go on for months," Crichton said and added that "it's really a shame that I'm ready to go to work, I'm able to go to work and I can't."

“I’m a furloughed Federal employee, but the doesn’t just affect me. My daughter’s daycare is in the Commerce Dept and is closed during the shutdown, but we still have to pay our weekly invoice.” More here -->

In cities such as Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Ogden (Utah) or Denver (Colorado) there were also various manifestations of union pushback. Protesters, wearing green vests which read "I am a worker, I demand a voice," asked for detaching the U.S. Federal Administration's functioning from any debate over President Trump's border wall funding.

To deal with the suspension of payments, thousands of federal employees have decided to apply for unemployment benefits, even though technically they do have a job.

More than 4,700 public workers joined the unemployment lists in the last week of December, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This procedure will allow the affected individuals to receive financial compensation for being officially unemployed.

Once the U.S. government is reopened, federal workers could collect their past payrolls. However, thousands of subcontracted employees will not have the same benefit.

Other federal workers have also turned to online fundraising outlets such as to help cover expenses from food to utility bills.

Tonight at 11 and , meet a Walton, KY family struggling to make ends meet in the midst of the . They've got a sick one-year-old daughter that needs constant care and rely on dad's job at the IRS. Hear their message to President Trump.

On Dec. 22, 2018, U.S. President Trump decided on a partial closure of the Federal Administration, seeking to put pressure on Congress to approve a US$5.7-billion funding for the construction of a wall at the border with Mexico, a device Trump states will deter Central American migrants from entering the country.

Besides affecting 800,000 employees who have stopped receiving their salary, Trump's government shutdown has disrupted the operations of different tourist facilities and activities of agencies which are yet to be assigned new resources.

Little or no advances toward ending the partial shutdown have occurred, since Trump has been intransigent in his negotiations with Democrats.


  • Published in World
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