Where does your Congress member stand on the shutdown?
Where does your Congress member stand on the shutdown?
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has been through five government shutdowns during his decades serving as a member of Congress and in White House jobs during several Republican political administrations. And he says the current one – now in its 28th day – is the most frustrating one he’s ever experienced.
“I’m frustrated for a very simple reason: the solution is right before us,” Portman said in a U.S. Senate floor speech on Friday. “The reasons that we’re in this shutdown is because both sides are unwilling to sit down and talk. That makes this shutdown particularly stupid.”
No end to the impasse was in sight as Congress adjourned for a long weekend before Martin Luther King Day. As the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed spending bills aimed at reopening the government, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate refused to take them up because they didn’t contain the amount of border wall funding called for by President Donald Trump.
Bad blood festered after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that Trump postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union speech during the shutdown because of security concerns, and Trump responded by refusing to let government aircraft take Pelosi and other Congress members on a previously scheduled trip to visit troops in Afghanistan and NATO’s headquarters in Belgium.
Meanwhile, some 800,000 federal workers around the country have missed paychecks, including more than 6,000 Ohioans who work for entities like NASA Glenn Research Center, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the federal prison system. In addition to harming finances of workers going without pay, the shutdown serves as a drag on the economy as needed federal functions like government loan approvals are halted.
Portman says the two sides are actually not that far apart, because Republicans and Democrats alike can agree that border security is needed, and have agreed on many details in previous years.
The problem seems to be that just about everyone in Congress has a different idea of how to resolve the situation, and leaders haven’t been willing to compromise, so far.
Here’s what members of Congress who represent Northeast Ohio have said and done about the shutdown in recent weeks:
Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican:
Portman is one of a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators discussing ways to end the shutdown. His efforts included drafting a letter to Trump that suggested passage of a temporary three-week funding measure that would end the shutdown and give Congress more time to reach consensus on what should be done to secure the U.S. border with Mexico.
Earlier this week, Trump nixed the suggestion that the government be opened temporarily to allow negotiations, telling reporters: “I want to get it solved, I don’t want to just delay it.”
In another effort to broker compromise, Portman introduced legislation last week that would set up a $25 billion trust fund that would be used to enhance U.S. border security, and that would codify protections for people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, whose parents illegally brought them to the United States as children.
He has also re-introduced legislation he sponsored in past years that would permanently end government shutdowns by automatically continuing spending at the same level as the previous year if new spending agreements aren’t reached. After four months, spending levels would gradually be cut as an incentive for legislators to continue negotiating.
“We wouldn’t be in this mess today if that legislation were law,” says Portman.
Thank you to the Ohioans who continue to look out for each other, in the midst of this shameful #TrumpShutdown – you represent the very best in our state. https://t.co/k5JIId922o— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) January 16, 2019
Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat:
Brown – who is testing the waters in early primary states for a “dignity of work” themed presidential run – blames Republicans for the shutdown, calling it a “Trump tantrum.” He says it is causing lasting damage to federal workers and contractors who are falling behind on bills and going into debt as their paychecks are withheld. He and Portman are both forgoing their own pay during the impasse.
Brown says 6,569 federal workers in Ohio, including 1,590 at NASA Glenn alone, are either furloughed or working without pay because of “President Trump’s shutdown.” He supported a Senate measure to make sure workers who are directly employed by the federal government get back pay when the shutdown ends. He is also working with Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith on legislation that would ensure back pay for employees of federal contractors who can’t work because of the shutdown.
“The people who serve the food and clean the floors in federal buildings are usually paid too little as it is – and now unless Congress acts, those workers won’t receive any back pay at all, because they’re employed by those private contracting companies, not the government,” says Brown.
Brown says he talks to his Republican colleagues “all the time” about ending the shutdown, and regularly highlights the stories of workers from Ohio and the rest of the nation who are being hurt by the shutdown in hopes that it will pressure Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on legislation to end the shutdown that Trump had initially said he’d sign.
“This is on Mitch McConnell,” says Brown. “He could end this tomorrow if he wants to. We could pass something similar to what we passed a few weeks ago. It would pass the House, and if the president vetoes it, we override it and the government is open. It is a simple process.”
Here’s why we can’t get a deal on securing the border and ending the shutdown: today’s Left has taken the most radical positions in American history. pic.twitter.com/UG8P5efPfb— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) January 16, 2019
Jim Jordan, Champaign County Republican:
The House Freedom Caucus co-founder says the shutdown should end when President Trump gets his requested border security wall money. He predicts newly elected Democrats in seats that were previously held by Republicans will provide critical support for the wall funding once they hear from voters in their districts.
“When constituents talk to those members, those members will talk to Speaker Pelosi and that’s when we can get an agreement to get the border security wall and get the government back open,” Jordan said.
To that end, Jordan says he is standing firm and sticking with the president. He and his fellow Freedom Caucus members delivered a series of House of Representatives floor speeches to promote funding for the wall.
“We believe that there is a difference, a big difference, between legal immigration and illegal immigration,” Jordan’s speech said. “And Americans and Republicans and the House Freedom Caucus believe that a border security wall will help stop the drug problem, the gang problem and the human trafficking problem.”
While @POTUS dines with the Freedom Caucus at the White House, I scoured the Capitol for the negotiations to end the #TrumpShutdown. @SpeakerRyan and @SenSchumer had time to take a visit. I wonder who President Scrooge is negotiating with? pic.twitter.com/h2fcgiqWve— Marcy Kaptur (@RepMarcyKaptur) December 22, 2018
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Toledo Democrat:
When the government first shut down in December, Kaptur mounted a social media campaign to highlight the absence of negotiators from the Capitol. After Congress returned in January, she voted for seven different funding bills that would reopen the government. Her office is also assisting federal workers in her district who are in need.
In a speech this week on the House of Representatives floor, Kaptur denounced Trump for holding the government hostage “to his harebrained notion that you can stop drug trafficking and migration with a wall.”
“The drug traffickers must be laughing up a storm,” she continued. “They already ship it here hidden in legal cargo. They dug tunnels under the 650 miles of border that already exists. They figured that out. And they have been flying contraband material over our border. They boat illegal contraband in here from our coastal ports, and they ship it from China through even the Postal Service, and we don’t have a mechanism to detect fentanyl in the mails.”
She urged passage of funding bills to reopen closed divisions of the federal government, and “pay the men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our borders and protecting us.” After the government opens, she said Congress and Trump can discuss “how best to fund mechanisms that will truly improve our security,” like thorough cargo inspections, and enhanced electronic surveillance along the border.
“Most importantly, we need a president who understands you don’t stop the drug trade or undocumented migration of individuals by shuttering the entire Department of Homeland Security or furloughing the border agents or making them go to work with no pay,” said Kaptur. “He has got the wrong answer for what America needs to address in border security.”
@realDonaldTrump and @SpeakerPelosi - This is getting more juvenile by the second. Here’s an idea - Can you both please go sit down and negotiate your way out of this mess? https://t.co/ilB7Ptc6zo— Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (@RepAGonzalez) January 17, 2019
Anthony Gonzalez, Rocky River Republican:
The shutdown started before newly elected congressman Anthony Gonzalez took office, and he views it as an example of the type of Washington dysfunction he was elected to curtail. He pledged to donate the congressional pay he earns during the shutdown to Northeast Ohio nonprofit groups that support survivors of human trafficking, rape, domestic abuse and addictions. His office has compiled a list of resources that are available to help federal employees affected by the shutdown.
Gonzalez argued in a Cleveland.com opinion piece that Trump has delivered a “thoughtful and comprehensive plan” to secure the border and provide humanitarian relief to prospective immigrants that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should seriously consider, instead of ridicule.
On Tuesday, Gonzalez was among a group of congressmen who discussed the shutdown with Trump over lunch at the White House.
“Leadership on both sides simply must put politics aside, sit at the table together and negotiate our way out of this mess,” Gonzalez said afterward. “I look forward to supporting those talks and doing everything I can to see that they happen as quickly as possible. That remains our best path forward, and the sooner it happens the better.”
#EndTheShutdown pic.twitter.com/fzXFfnVQMq— Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (@RepMarciaFudge) January 9, 2019
Rep. Marcia Fudge, Warrensville Heights Democrat:
Fudge says the Trump administration is putting the politics of the border wall ahead of the American people’s welfare. The House of Representatives has passed numerous bills that would reopen the government immediately and Trump and the Senate should to “do their part” to reopen the government, says Fudge.
In a telephone town hall with NAACP members earlier this week, Fudge said African Americans are taking a disproportionate hit during the government shutdown, because they represent nearly 20 percent of the federal work force.
She said many African Americans seek federal government jobs because it is one of the nation’s least discriminatory employers and noted that African Americans have lower household wealth than their white counterparts and are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck.
She said that when Trump said on Twitter that “most of the people not getting paid are Democrats,” he really wanted to say that most people not being paid are black.
She said she’s “trying to find a way, any way I can” to encourage both sides to reach a deal to reopen the federal government and resume pay for affected federal workers.
“The humanitarian crisis is not at our borders,” Fudge said in a comment on Twitter. “Instead, the crisis is the misuse of power holding America hostage.”
Every time you hear a Republican blame this #TrumpShutdown on Democrats, watch this video. And then remember that Democrats have already voted to re-open government. #EndTheShutdown pic.twitter.com/2A0h2E1ZCw— Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (@RepMarciaFudge) January 15, 2019
If they are working to protect America, they should be getting their paychecks on time. We shouldn’t be forcing these men and women to shoulder the burden of Democrats’ unwillingness to work with GOP to solve the humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border. https://t.co/m63vOuhKcI— Rep. Bob Gibbs (@RepBobGibbs) January 9, 2019
Bob Gibbs, Holmes County Republican:
Gibbs has met with Ohio air traffic controllers who are working without pay during the shutdown, and is having his own pay withheld until the shutdown is over.
Last week, he introduced a bill that would require that federal employees whose jobs are deemed so essential that they have to work during shutdowns – like air traffic controllers and federal law enforcement officers – be paid regardless of any lapse in government funding.
“Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer must come to the table and negotiate, and I’ve talked to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle about the need for that first step,” said a statement from Gibbs. “Democratic leadership needs to give up on their obsession to block anything President Trump proposes. This is an opportunity to address not just a border wall, but also fix visa overstays, find a solution for DACA recipients, create a practical guest worker program, and hire more judges to adjudicate asylum requests in a more timely manner. Border security, including a physical barrier, must be a part of the funding package to reopen the government.”
Just a friendly reminder to my colleagues who rejected @POTUS’ invitation yesterday to discuss how we can end this shutdown: pic.twitter.com/skyjFd2iLR— Dave Joyce (@RepDaveJoyce) January 16, 2019
Dave Joyce, Bainbridge Township Republican:
Joyce has said he’ll forgo pay during the shutdown, and he met with Trump and members of the bipartisan “problem solvers” caucus at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the shutdown.
Joyce notes that he and his colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee passed all the funding bills in a timely fashion, but said many of his colleagues “decided to play politics instead of putting their constituents first.”
“We must come to an agreement with the Senate that includes strong border security, sets the tone for commonsense, bipartisan legislating next Congress and gets this funding out the door as quickly as possible and into the communities that depend on it,” said a statement from Joyce.
American workers shouldn’t have to do this. @realDonaldTrump, @senatemajldr reopen the government. https://t.co/jIjS1jztE7— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) January 17, 2019
Tim Ryan, Niles area Democrat:
Last week, Ryan visited with prison employees who are working without pay at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton to draw attention to their plight.
“Of course we will fight to ensure these hardworking employees receive the back pay they have earned, but right now they are forced to make impossible decisions to pay the bills, put food on the table, and cover basic necessities,” said Ryan. “It’s time for this President and the Republican Party to end this nonsense and reopen the government. This has gone on for far too long.”
His office noted that the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has passed eight bills to reopen the government with Ryan’s support, which the Republican-controlled Senate refused to consider.
“He will continue to fight tirelessly to end this shutdown and get America back to work,” said his spokesman, Michael Zetts.