Alabama legislators again call for end to government shutdown

Published 3:54 pm Friday, January 25, 2019

As federal employees miss their second paycheck as a result of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Alabama’s lawmakers in Washington are again calling for an end to the impasse which is causing chaos across a number of sectors, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Coast Guard and more.

On Thursday, Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, released a statement regarding the U.S. Senate’s inability to come to an agreement of two competing pieces of legislation that would have reopened the government, one a Republican-backed bill and the other a Democrat-backed bill.

“I am disappointed that we have again failed our constituents by not finding a consensus path forward to reopen the government,” Jones said. “We need to reach across the aisle and end the growing crisis within our borders created by this government shutdown. Our dedicated federal employees and contractors need to be able to get back to work and receive their paychecks so that the security of our country is not placed in further jeopardy.”

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Jones noted that he was one of the few Democratic legislators who did not immediately reject President Donald Trump’s latest proposal to reopen the government.

However, Jones said, Trump altered the legislation at the last minute, adding language that placed “limitations and additional hardships” on people seeking refuge from “violence in their own countries,” and he could not support the bill.

In an effort to support furloughed workers, Jones introduced the Back Pay Fairness Act, which would provide furloughed workers with interest on top of the pay currently being withheld, and has requested that his pay be withheld until the government shutdown has been resolved.

Further, the press release stated a number of initiatives Jones has taken in an effort to assist federal employees and contractors adversely impacted by the shutdown, including co-sponsoring the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, which would ensure that the Coast Guard continue to receive pay with or without an approved budget bill, correspondence with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on the necessity of their programs and more.

Across the aisle, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to put an end to ongoing shutdown.

“Let’s come together, put the bitterness behind us, and do what is right for the American people,” Shelby said during his remarks. “[We must] end the shutdown and secure the border.”

Unlike Jones, Shelby supports the president’s proposal, calling it a “serious and reasonable compromise” and “a comprehensive solution.”

“He is doing what the American people expect – showing a willingness to work together, to find common ground,” Shelby said. “I encourage my Democratic colleagues to reciprocate.”

Shelby urged Democratic legislators to “put something on the table” and stop “simply saying no.”

Further, Shelby stated that the Democratic push to fund the government and allow for talks concerning border security to continue “just won’t do.”

“Just a few months ago, funding for a physical barrier at the Southern border was part of a bipartisan deal,” Shelby said. “And now we can’t even discuss it. That was then, I understand…it boggles the mind how we have returned so quickly to standoff mode, to a zero-sum mentality after making so much progress together.”

Even in the Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives, which has passed a handful of its own bills aimed at ending the stalemate, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, took to the chamber floor to call for an end to the partisan standoff.

“What is right…is to reopen the government now,” Sewell said. “We must stand with these federal workers. We must unabashedly demand they get paid and we must seek ways to work across to get government open. But [Republicans] have to offer an olive branch. This president hasn’t done that. Instead, he’s put his interests over the American people’s interests.”

Sewell described the situation of one employee in Aliceville, where she was providing lunch to corrections workers earlier in the day, who was struggling to afford gas to make the 30-minute commute to work each day.

“Enough is enough,” Sewell said. “We must reopen government and let our federal workers, our contractors, know that we stand in solidarity with them.”

By Friday afternoon, Trump had announced a possible deal with congressional leaders to fund the government for three weeks while negotiations continue regarding the president’s proposed border wall, according to a Washington Post report.

If passed, the deal would put an end to the shutdown but, if a compromise on Trump’s border wall is not reached within three weeks, it could start all over again.