The partial government shutdown has officially become the longest in United States history. The shutdown has entered it’s 22nd day, just 24-hours after many federal workers received pay-stubs that were zeroed out in pay. Approximately 800,000 federal employees nationwide find themselves in economic uncertainty while many of them are required to continue to punch in and out of the time clock. The emergency is quickly becoming the lack of pay and stability for federal workers and citizens feeling the ripple effect.
According to the Department of Labor, North Dakota has over 9,000 federal employees. It is unclear how many of them are no longer receiving a paycheck. Employees certainly feel the brunt of this unnecessary and prolonged stalemate, but they aren’t alone. Landlords, lenders, extended families, schools, farmers, and many others feel the ripple effect. Yet, Armstrong, Hoeven, and Cramer don’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation and what they could do to help end it. If they truly wanted to end this shutdown, why did Congress adjourn and leave town?
I’m not sure what is worse. Voting “nay” more than once on budgets for agencies to reopen that have nothing to do with a border wall and are just simply caught up in the partisan politics or not having the courage to tell your leader to take up these budgets for a vote at all. That is exactly where we find North Dakota’s federal delegation. It is a shame.
Congressman Kelly Armstrong’s honeymoon is over. He voted “nay” multiple times this week on budgets to reopen agencies like the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Farmers who utilize Farm Service Agency (FSA) and have checks that need the agency’s signature now sit without anywhere to go. Their hands are tied. Instead of grasping this important agricultural based issue – something farm groups complained about during the midterm election – Armstrong was lecturing others about “political posturing“. These budgets passed the House without the support of Armstrong.
Those standalone budgets were met with inaction in the Senate led by Mitch McConnell and enabled by people like John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer. Hoeven, a longtime enabler of McConnell’s was in the Senate weeks ago when that Chamber passed the agreed upon compromise to prevent this shutdown. Reports at the time stated not a single Republican objected to the
Continuing Resolution. That has all come crashing down.
Instead of urging McConnell to take up budgets like the USDA for a vote, Hoeven is instead urging Agriculture Secretary Sunny Perdue to deem their loan programs essential. Hoeven, much like Lindsay Graham is urging the Executive branch to forgo the Legislative branch. Hear me out, perhaps the Legislative branch should simply do their job and pass budgets to keep agencies open, employees paid, and basic government functions flowing.
Where is Senator Kevin Cramer? He isn’t urging Mitch McConnell to stop holding up these budgets. What “work” is Cramer doing that justifies him continuing to get paid while the government is shut down? Who has the higher “pain threshold” a Senator being paid without getting the job done or a federal worker putting in their regular shift for three weeks without being paid?
Food banks are being established and memos are sent urging furloughed workers to find side jobs and negotiate with their lenders. Workers still showing up, punching in, and receiving pay-stubs that have zero dollars of income. Locally, school districts like the one in West Fargo are sending emails to families that read, ” If your family’s income has been cut off due to the shutdown, you are eligible to apply for Free & Reduced Lunch.” How many hard working, dedicated public workers will be lost because of this nonsense? Some of this panic and uncertainty for families could end if Congress simply did their job and passed budgets not directly tied to the partisan debate over a border wall. Instead, they left town with nothing getting done.