Threat of government shutdown looms; puts workers at risk again

Courtesy of CNN

02/14/2019

By Ollie Gratzinger | Opinions Editor

As federal workers began to recover from the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, a threat loomed still overhead: Would the government remain open for business, allowing funding for countless federal programs to continue flowing, or would it shut down once again if a deal wasn’t struck by midnight on Friday?

According to CNN, that threat is diminishing, at least for now. Late Monday night, congressional leaders struck an agreement that the president said he was “not happy” with. But come Wednesday, it’s looking like Trump is leaning toward signing the deal, which includes $1.375 billion in funding for a wall along the border. It’s a far cry short from the more than $5 billion he’d demanded, but it’s expected to cover about 55 miles, including parts of the Rio Grande. The deal also doesn’t allow for any concrete to be used, limiting the construction to “existing technologies,” like fencing or steel.

The deal looks like the closest thing to a win Democrats could hope for, considering the circumstances, and the closest thing to a defeat Trump might be willing to accept. But the country isn’t out of the woods yet: It’s unclear whether or not Trump is truly ready to sign the agreement, and with the Friday deadline fast approaching, federal workers and beneficiaries of federal programs alike remain uncertain. Politico reported that the agreement was in danger of unraveling before it even reached the Oval Office, as it seems rife with issues that are insignificant but ample. With the deadline coming so soon, it’s hard to know for sure if a decision will be reached in time.

Allegedly, Trump told reporters that he’ll take a look at the proposed legislation and that he doesn’t want another shutdown. Why would he? The last one tanked his approval ratings.

It seems only logical for the president to accept this quiet loss with what little grace he has left. Another shutdown would devastate the country, putting thousands out of work once again and jeopardizing the futures of countless Americans. Even if Trump doesn’t care about that — he never has before — it seems unlikely that even his most dedicated base could support him through another economically dangerous temper-tantrum. I’ve been surprised before, though.

Government closure is a dangerous game of chess with no winners and countless pawns — federal workers, SNAP recipients, school children and just about anyone who has any sort of stake in federal programs. He stands to lose nothing but an argument, while the folks whose livelihoods he bargains with could lose their jobs, their homes, their cars, their freedom, their security, their everything. It was crazy for Trump to shut it down once. It would be cruel for him to do it again.

Ideally, Trump would give up on the wall entirely and put a stop to his anti-immigration rhetoric once and for all, chalking the whole thing up to a blundering mess. But we can only ask for so much. Asking for the government to stay open seems like a good place to start.

Even though the deal offers Trump less that $1.4 billion, the president remains hopeful that he’ll be able to funnel money from other places in order to fund a wall that is, as he said, harder to climb than Mt. Everest.

There’s still the chance that he’ll file an executive order or declare a state of emergency to get the wall built, and there has been talk — however unfounded — of utilizing the military construction budget to make up the difference. No matter how hard it is to tell where wall money might come from, there’s one place we can be certain that Trump won’t get it: Mexico. No matter how many times Trump says the Mexican government will fork over the cost of a barrier between nations, it will most likely be American taxpayers who end up shouldering the cost, one way or another.

There’s also been controversy surrounding whether or not back pay will be issued to federal contractors affected by the last shutdown. According to NBC News, Trump is reluctant to sign a measure that would return lost funds to the contractors who lost more than a month’s wages. Federal contractors differ from federal workers in the sense that contractors work for third-party companies rather than the government itself, and in the past, they had to deal with the gap in pay. But now, Democratic leaders are pushing for a bill that would guarantee back pay to contractors as well.

The back pay bill wouldn’t interfere with the bill regarding the wall, but they’re two sides of the same story. The administration needs to not only avoid another shut down, but they need to take care of the citizens affected by the first one, too.

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