Shutdown drags on and will soon shutter the federal judiciary
Over three weeks ago the federal government shut down due to lack of funding. Today, it remains closed. President Trump called several meetings with Congressional leadership last week but continues to say he will sign legislation only if it includes funding for a border wall- an appropriations measure Democrats have refused to fund. Not only are 800,000 federal employees either on furlough or working without pay, but soon, the federal courts will also be running out of funds and shutting down.
President Trump brought Democrat and Republican leadership into the Situation Room on Wednesday to discuss the importance of border security and to express his unwillingness to waver on the issue. With Congressional leadership votes the next day, both parties agreed to return on Friday when leadership was solidified to continue the conversation.
While Congress was electing leadership on Thursday, President Trump convened an impromptu press conference with border patrol union representatives.
Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council, an affiliate of the American Federation of Government Employees, spoke at the event to defend the President, border walls, and the shutdown. The National Border Patrol Council represents 16,000 border patrol agents and endorsed candidate Trump in the 2016 election.
Late Thursday evening, the House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, voted to fund eight of the nine unfunded government agencies and passed a continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security in a six-bill package, effectively putting off the border wall issue until February. The House bills also included a pay raise.
Nearly identical bills passed through the Senate in 2018 before President Trump came out against them. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now said he would not bring a bill to the floor unless he could guarantee the president’s support.
In a speech on the Senate floor on Friday, McConnell noted, “The package presented by the House's new Democratic leaders yesterday can only be seen as a time-wasting act of political posturing… It does not carry the support of the president ... the president would actually veto it. And it cannot earn the support of 60 of my colleagues over here in the Senate. My friends across the aisle understand the ground rules perfectly well.”
Nonetheless, this week, the House is expected to pass individual bills to reopen the National Park Service, the Internal Revenue Service and other small agencies. The House also plans to vote on individual Agriculture-FDA, Financial Services, Interior-Environmental and Transportation-HUD appropriations bills to pressure Senate Republicans into action.
Meanwhile, the federal judiciary announced on Monday that it is attempting to maintain paid operations through Jan. 18 using fees and other non-appropriations funding sources.
In the absence of a congressional deal funding the government before Jan. 18, all nonessential court workers will be sent home, while others will remain working without pay if it is deemed necessary “to support the exercise of Article III judicial powers.” Jurors will also not be paid for their work during this time, according to the American Bar Association Journal.
Already, some federal district courts have issued orders suspending civil litigation that involves federal agencies and immigration courts have been delayed.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that while thousands of federal workers go without pay, the president’s cabinet secretaries, top administrators, and Vice President Mike Pence are expected to receive annual raises of about $10,000.
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