The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Michelle Bigelbach
The Courier 

Partial Government Shutdown Makes History

Affects Local Families and Community

 

January 16, 2019



The partial government shutdown is now officially the longest government shutdown in history, currently on day 24 as of press time, breaking the previous shutdown record of 21 days, which occurred at the end of 1995 through the beginning of 1996 under President Clinton. Certain agencies within the federal government, including the Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, Departmentn of Interior, Department of Homeland Security, among others, ran out of funding when the budget for these agencies expired on Dec. 22. Employees of the affected agencies, approximately 800,000 countrywide, have either been furloughed or working without a scheduled paycheck since.

The shutdown has hit residents of Glasgow and surrounding communities, as employees of the USDA Farm Service Agency were furloughed as of Dec. 31, which put their services off-limits to local farmers, producers and ranchers, the Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife Service offices have been deserted, while employees with the National Weather Service in Glasgow have continued to watch weather patterns, provide forecasts and update the public on weather conditions, however have not been able to attend meetings, conferences or complete required trainings.

All employees affected by the shutdown did not receive their first paycheck this past weekend, leaving individuals and families scrambling to figure out how to pay their expenses that are due

Area farmers and producers are also affected by the shutdown as they are unable to apply and receive grants or loans. Reports and publications that were expected to be published Jan. 11, which would help producers plan for their spring harvest, were not produced as a result of the shutdown.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight to provide relief to area workers, and federal employees across the country, as negotiations between President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have not been successful. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell has been noticeably absent from the talks. President Trump wants $5.7 billion to be included in the budget in order to start building a border wall between the United States and Mexico. He has stated border security is utmost important and even addressed the nation on Jan. 9 expressing the need for the wall. House Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer on the other hand believe there are other ways to secure the southern border and are refusing to acquiesce to the President’s demands. They followed up the president’s press conference on the 9th with their own press conference detailing why they are not budging and their opinion on other ways to secure the border.

Montana delegates do not agree with what is happening in Washington, D.C., and feel the stress federal workers and their families are under. According to a Washington Post analysis, Montana has the fourth-highest concentration of federal workers furloughed in the country, with 1,500 federal workers per 100,000.

Senator Tester told the Courier on Jan. 6, “Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate already agreed to a plan to keep the government open. It is time for President Trump to work with Republicans and Democrats and sign legislation to reopen the government.” The plan Senator Tester is referencing is the legislation that was passed to fund six of the seven agencies that are currently shut down and reopen the Department of Homeland Security for the next 30 days as negotiations over border security funding continues. However, Senate Majority Leader McConnell refused to bring the bills up for a vote in the Senate as the White House notified Congress of the President’s intent to veto. Senator Tester later stated in a speech on the Senate floor, “We can continue to have the debate about the best way to secure the border, but we should not be holding the American people hostage.”

Senator Daines tells the Courier on Jan. 7, “The American people deserve a government that is open and funded, and a border that is secure. All sides need to come together and get this done.” House of Representatives Greg Gianforte believes Democrats should support funding to address border security, and agrees with the President the current state of the border is a national crisis. “We need to complete it. I think Americans are pretty consistent on this. The majority of the calls we’re getting to our office here are saying, ‘Secure our border,’ and I’m going to stand with the president on this,” Rep. Gianforte told the Billings Gazette on Jan. 12.

One thing all three delegates agreed on however was supporting and signing the 2019 Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, a law paying furloughed government workers, but not contractors, once the government is back up and running. The House approved the measure on a 411 to 7 vote on Jan. 11, while the Senate approved the measure unanimously earlier that day. President Trump has indicated he will sign the bill into law, however as of press time he has not.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock also urged Congress and the Trump administration to reach an agreement to reopen the government. In a letter sent to President Trump, Senate Majority Leader McConell, Senate Minority Leader Schumer, House Speaker Pelosi and House Minority Leader Keven McCarthy early last week, Governor Bullock, as well as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, stated, “A federal government shutdown should not be a negotiating tactic as disagreements are resolved. Governors stand united in telling the federal government to open the doors of currently shuttered agencies while you find a long-term, bipartisan compromise on the issues that currently divide Washington.”

Federal employees are supposed to get paid on either Jan. 25, 26, or the 28, depending on the agency they work for. Only time will tell if a deal can be reached between the President and Congress before then and the further consequences the families and communities will endure if the employees don’t get paid.

 

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