Federal workforce starts to feel pinch of prolonged shutdown

Federal workforce starts to feel pinch of prolonged shutdown

A sign is posted on a fence near an entrance to the Bunker Hill Monument

Roughly 400,000 federal employees will be furloughed during the shutdown, with another 400,000 deemed “essential personnel” and required to stay on the job without pay. | Steven Senne/AP Photo

The partial government shutdown entered its fifth day Wednesday with no signs of a breakthrough and hundreds of thousands of federal workers about to feel the pinch of a protracted standoff.

President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders aren’t currently negotiating directly, according to GOP and Democratic aides. Staff-level discussions are continuing, but there’s no indication that key players are ready to reach an accord.

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Leaders from both parties fear that if a deal isn’t struck soon, the stalemate could easily drag on into mid-January. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is set to become speaker when Democrats take over the chamber on Jan. 3.

On the House side, leadership sources continue to argue that the onus is on the Senate to find a path forward. There were no calls or meetings between House GOP and Democratic leaders scheduled Wednesday. The House isn’t planning to return to Washington this week unless a deal is reached and approved by the upper chamber, these sources said.

“As we have always said, the House will pass a plan that can get through the Senate and that the president says he will sign,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan. “The White House is engaged in talks with Senate Democrats, and when the Senate acts, the House will be prepared to follow.”

But Senate aides said there is no significant movement there, either. The Senate will be in session on Thursday, but there will be no votes in the chamber until a deal is reached to end the shutdown.

Once she takes over, Pelosi is expected to try to push through a Democratic plan to reopen the government without money for Trump’s border wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office would not say Wednesday whether he would put a Pelosi-passed spending bill on the floor in the new year.

The full effect of the shutdown will become apparent Wednesday, when federal workers return from the Christmas holiday. They were off this weekend through Tuesday.

Federal offices were set to re-open Wednesday for normal business, unless they were among the nine departments without government funding. Those include the departments of agriculture, commerce, homeland security, housing and urban development, interior, justice, state, transportation and treasury. NASA and the Food and Drug Administration are among the federal agencies hit by the shutdown as well.

Roughly 400,000 federal employees will be furloughed during the shutdown, with another 400,000 deemed “essential personnel” and required to stay on the job without pay.

A Jan. 11 payday is scheduled for federal employees, the first covering the shutdown period for employees in the affected agencies. Until then, federal employees receive pay as normal, according to an Office of Management and Budget statement, abating some of the urgency for striking a deal now, congressional sources said.

Some federal employees told POLITICO they were required to hold off on instituting “orderly shutdown activities” until Wednesday morning. That means they will begin to execute those instructions today.

Trump, with the backing of Republicans on Capitol Hill, has refused to support a funding resolution for roughly one-quarter of the federal government unless Democratic congressional leaders go along with his demand for $5 billion for the border wall. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have rejected the president’s request.

Trump defiantly proclaimed on Christmas Day that the government will remain closed until he gets his border wall money.

“I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open,” Trump told reporters in an Oval Office appearance. “I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it.”

Democrats suggested Trump is “having a complete meltdown.”

“House Republicans frustrated, discouraged and in disarray,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) tweeted on Wednesday morning. “House Dems preparing to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions on January 3rd And Individual 1 having a complete meltdown.”

Trump was referred to as “Individual 1” in the plea deal of his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

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