By Miriam Raftery
January 25, 2019 ( Washington D.C.) – The longest federal government shutdown in history is slated to end tonight, after President Donald Trump and Congressional leaders agreed to enact a temporary bill to fund agencies through February 15th. That bill does not include any funding for a border wall.
The Senate passed the short-term funding bill today, one day after the Republican-controlled Senate voted to reject two measures that would have reopened the government long-term. One was a Trump proposal with wall funding and a temporary extension of protection for young immigrants or Dreamers. The other was a funding bill with no money for the wall passed by the Democratic-controlled House.
During the next three weeks, Congress will convene a bipartisan conference committee on a Homeland Security Department funding bill and attempt to strike a compromise on border security.
The shutdown to date has cost taxpayers over $3 billion. Ending of the shutdown came after some air traffic controllers called in sick across the nation today and protests were held at airports nationwide.
Trump has been adamant that he won’t sign a long-term budget without $5.6 billion for a wall which he contends is needed to secure the border. Democratic leaders have said they won’t support funding a wall, but will support other border security measures such as technology (cameras, sensors, etc.) and increased Border Patrol personnel as part of a comprehensive immigration reform that could include protection for young immigrants or Dreamers. They point to an overall decline in illegal immigration in recent years, despite the much-publicized migrant caravan, and statistics indicating the vast majority of illicit drugs enter the U.S. through smuggling across legal points of entry.
The short-term agreement means over 800,000 federal workers including 300,000 furloughed and off work will receive their first paychecks since September. A bill signed early by the President guarantees federal employees back pay, though there is no such provision for federal contractors who lost income during the shutdown.
Trump thanked federal employees, calling them “incredible patriots.” In his address today, he als hinted that he may still declare a national emergency to fund the wall or force yet another shutdown Feb. 15 to get funding for border security.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also thanked the workers, adding that they should never be “held hostage” again.
San Diego East County’s Congressional representatives have issued statements reacting to news of the stop-gap agreement.
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) said: “It would be my personal preference that any spending bill passed by Congress include specific funding for a border wall; it is proven effective and is imperative to any effort that involves substantive border security. During this shutdown, Congressional Democrats have made it abundantly clear that border security is not a priority for them, that they care more for the security and well-being of people in foreign countries than people here in our country, including Dreamers.”
But he added that the legislative process “does not always provide exactly what we want. President Trump feels comfortable moving forward with this approach; he has not abandoned the wall and has made it clear to me that he is personally committed to continuing to fight for it in ongoing negotiations. Having met with the President yesterday at the White House, I trust his judgement and will stand by his side in moving forward in this manner while, at the same time, hold the President and all my colleagues accountable in staying the course and eventually getting a border wall built.”
Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) stated, “While I’m glad the President has decided to listen to reason, this could have happened five weeks ago thus avoiding the unnecessary suffering by the American people, who overwhelmingly don’t want a wall. The top priority now is to ensure federal workers get paid what they are owed, including back pay.”
She added, “I encourage the President and the Republican Party to take stock of this shutdown and come to the conclusion that the only thing they achieve is causing pain. We need to come together in a bipartisan manner to get fully informed of the most efficacious approach to our border security options.”