Shutdown showdown
January 23, 2019

TSA employees are finding themselves at the center of the government shutdown debate.

Transportation Security Administration screeners at airports across the country have been working without pay while the partial government shutdown continues into its second month. In some cases, workers have called in sick or quit, and in others, they are relying on an airport food bank to get through the missed paychecks.

Some TSA workers say their work is important enough that a mass protest could force lawmakers to end the impasse over border security funding. "There's this talk going on that if the TSA workers would take a stand, would walk out, then the airlines would get to the president and he'd have to make a decision to stop the shutdown," TSA agent Cairo D'Almeida told The Seattle Times.

While plenty of pundits have suggested such a move, hoping the ensuing chaos would pressure President Trump to cave on his demand for $5.7 billion toward a border wall, it's a big ask for TSA workers, who, as federal workers, can be fired and even prosecuted for striking. "I know President Trump wouldn't hesitate one second to get rid of the entire federal work force," said D'Almeida.

Still, many TSA employees recognize that they are in a unique position to shape the debate surrounding the record-breaking shutdown. Earlier this week, 7.5 percent of the TSA workforce called in sick, more than double the rate on the same day last year, reports ABC News. That strain alone is creating some political pressure, but it's risky to intentionally cause more trouble. "It's unfair this political burden has fallen to us," D'Almeida told the Times.

Read more about what federal workers can do about the shutdown here at The Week. Summer Meza

December 28, 2018

Little progress has been made to resolve the partial government shutdown nearly a week after it began, as President Trump and his Democratic opponents are both apparently under the impression they have the upper hand in the fight.

Privately, Trump has been saying that the shutdown is working out great for him politically and that the Democrats are "screwing themselves" by not agreeing to his wall demands, The Daily Beast reports. The partial shutdown began when Trump refused to sign a spending bill that did not include the $5 billion in border wall funding he has demanded.

At the same time, Democrats don't see Trump as being in any position to make demands, especially seeing as they're about to take control of the House of Representatives. "I don't see this as going well for them," a congressional Democratic aide told The Daily Beast. “The idea that they're somehow doing good in this shows they're clearly living in a Fox News bubble."

That assessment may be correct based on a recent poll, which found that 47 percent of Americans blame Trump for the shutdown, while only 33 percent blame Democrats. But Trump is only doubling down on his demands, threatening Friday on Twitter to close the southern border entirely if Democrats don't agree to wall funding.

According to The Daily Beast, Trump and his allies like the idea of Nancy Pelosi having to begin her tenure as House speaker by fighting over the wall. "The more the focus is on the wall, the more Pelosi is forced to focus on this fight instead of the investigations," a source close to the White House said. Brendan Morrow

December 27, 2018

As the partial government shutdown enters its sixth day, President Trump seemed to suggest Thursday that most of the federal employees going without pay are Democrats.

Trump continued to insist on Twitter that the government can't re-open until Democrats agree on the $5 billion he has demanded for his proposed border wall. But this time, he added, "Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?"

About 380,000 federal employees have been furloughed, and 400,000 more have been forced to work without pay, because of the shutdown, which began when Trump refused to sign a stopgap spending bill that didn't contain the $5 billion he wants for his border wall, per ABC News.

Trump seems to now be suggesting that most of the affected employees are Democrats, either in an attempt to dismiss the significance of their struggles or to pressure Democrats into caving to his demands. Trump had previously attempted to pin the shutdown on Democrats, despite previously pledging he would take the blame for it. "I am proud to shut down the government for border security," Trump told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Dec. 11. "I will be the one to shut it down." Brendan Morrow

September 24, 2016

Here we go again: Federal agencies on Friday started to prepare for a possible government shutdown beginning Oct. 1, the end of the fiscal year.

Though congressional leaders are working on a 10-week stopgap measure to continue funding the federal government, squabbles over whether that bill should include relief aid to Flint, Michigan, have stalled the process. Thus, "at this time, prudent management requires that the government plan for the possibility of a lapse and OMB is working with agencies to take appropriate action," an Office of Management and Budget official told The Hill.

The last time the government shut down because of a funding gap was in 2013, when nonessential employees were sent home for more than two weeks. Contrary to the suggestion of the term "shutdown," only about 20 percent of federal employees are considered nonessential, meaning roughly eight in 10 — more than 3 million people — will keep working as usual should a shutdown occur. Bonnie Kristian

November 16, 2015

In light of the Islamic State's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, Republican legislators are calling on the White House to implement more oversight in its plan to accept up to 10,000 refugees from Syria in the next year, Politico reports.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is advocating attaching a provision to the spending bill Congress must pass in December that would change the U.S. plan on Syrian refugees — and potentially force a government shutdown.

"Our track record on screening is very poor. My [immigration] subcommittee has identified at least 26 foreign-born individuals inside the United States charged with or convicted of terrorism over approximately the last year alone," Sessions wrote in a letter to Congress on Monday. "The barbaric attacks in Paris — an assault on civilization itself — add immense new urgency."

Meanwhile, at least 19 governors so far, most of them Republican, have announced refusals to accept refugees from Syria. One of the Paris suicide bombers is thought to have passed through Greece and entered France in the flow of migrants and refugees, reportedly with a forged Syrian passport.

President Obama has said Syrian refugees entering the U.S. will be thoroughly screened to weed out potential terrorists.

Update 5:40 p.m.: This story was updated to reflect that more governors, including at least one Democrat, have said they'll try to refuse Syrian refugees. Julie Kliegman

March 13, 2015

As cars become more fuel efficient, the gas tax, traditionally used to fund federal transportation projects, just isn't cutting it anymore, and time is running out for Congress to pass an infrastructure reauthorization bill to avoid a shutdown.

According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) spokesman Michael O’Brien, the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money on May 31, unless Congress can "avoid another artificial disaster."

"With just 80 days remaining until a partial government shutdown of highway programs, it's time for tax writers in the House and Senate to put their cards on the table," O'Brien said.

According to The Hill, the government requires about $50 billion a year to spend on transportation infrastructure, and only gets about $34 billion in tax revenue by charging consumers more at the pump. Some lawmakers have talked about raising the gas tax to make up for the shortfall, but it's still a matter for debate.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) have suggested taxing overseas corporate revenue as part of a "repatriation" proposal that President Obama also supports, though some see this as only a short-term solution. Others, including the conservative Heritage Action group, recommend repealing the federal tax and allowing states determine taxes and project funding at a local level. Teresa Mull

February 26, 2015

The Senate appears poised for a vote Friday on a bill that would approve funding for the Department of Homeland Security without blocking President Obama's immigration order. That would give the House — which passed a DHS funding bill last month that included provisions thwarting Obama's immigration action — less than a day to respond; funding for DHS runs out Saturday.

Confronted with a restive conservative wing that wants him to keep fighting and spurn the bipartisan Senate deal, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has yet to say how he will respond once the Senate acts. Jon Terbush

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