Out of touch? White House says unpaid workers are 'better off'
How out of touch is this White House? President Donald J. Trump’s economic adviser has an answer to that question. He said on the PBS NewsHour that federal employees are “better off” because of the shutdown because did not have to use their vacation days to celebrate the Christmas season.
“Workers are furloughed, and right now, it’s about 25 percent of government workers are furloughed, which means they are not allowed to go to work,” Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers said on PBS. “But then, when the shutdown ends, they go back to work and they get their back pay.”
So just how out of touch is this White House?
A group of Republican senators came up with a plan to fund the government and debate the administration’s border wall as part of comprehensive legislation in the Senate. The president said no.
Friday the House voted again to reopen the government agency by agency. But the Senate again refused to consider any of the measures until it has approval from the White House.
The Washington Post said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, Chickasaw, called the House vote a “charade.” He said “if anybody thinks this is accomplishing anything it is not.” He called it a “sad week” in the capitol.
However Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, told KTOO Public Media that he would consider crossing the aisle and voting with Democrats to end the shutdown. “You’re going to see quite a few Republicans will be voting to reopen everything but the wall,” Young said. “That will be an indication.”
Both the House and the Senate passed legislation Friday that would give workers back pay when the shutdown comes to an end. If the president signs the bill, that is.
Meanwhile the impact of the longest shutdown of the federal government in history has reached disaster proportions. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees, tribal employees, and contractors are suddenly seeing no pay or reduced pay until further notice.
Rosebud Tribal Chairman Rodney Bordeaux said in The Argus Leader that the tribe may end up having to run a soup kitchen to feed people. He is particularly concerned about what happens when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food stamps program runs out of money next month. "The tribes are going to have to be looking at possibly setting up soup kitchens or some kind of an effort to make sure our people are fed," Bordeaux told the Argus Leader.
The Pawnee Nation in Oklahoma has started a Go Fund me page for tribal members impacted by the shutdown. “he Pawnee Nation has established a way for anyone to help make this government shutdown a bit less stressful for their families by contributing towards a fund used to buy groceries,” the Go Fund Me page said. “We can only imagine the stress this shutdown has been on the federal employees and their families who in some cases live paycheck to paycheck and as of today now are expected to work for no pay till the government reopens,” said Pawnee Nation President Bruce Pratt. “This unfortunate situation is having an adverse impact across the country and this effort is our small way to assist those families of federal employees who serve in the Pawnee Nation.”
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Idaho announced that if the shutdown down goes to a fourth week, the work schedule for tribal employees will be reduced to 80 percent. The tribe said it had a comprehensive contingency plan, including allowing tribal employees to moonlight at other jobs. “Tribal leadership urges the Fort Hall community and tribal members to unify and support our own community in our collective efforts to respond to the shutdown,” a tribal news release said. “We are all impacted by this continued stalemate in Congress and the White House.”
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has agreed to pay the cost during the shutdown for the Public Health Service employees, including Commissioned Officers, who work at the Alaska Native Medical Center. “ANTHC values the service and commitment shown by our federal employees during this trying time. They have continued to serve our communities during a time when their pay has not been guaranteed. We embrace this opportunity to take care of our staff who we entrust with the care of our people,” Andy Teuber, ANTHC’s president and board chairman, said in a statement. “We look forward to a swift resolution of the federal shutdown.”
On Friday the Navajo Nation announced that university scholarships for students are being delayed. “We realize the unfortunate predicament the delayed funding places on students,” said Rose Graham, the scholarship office manager. “We are working closely with officials within the Navajo Nation, including the Office of Management & Budget and the Office of the Controller, to authorize providing financial assistance to students at least to the extent of $2.5 million for now and serve additional students as soon as the Congress approves the budget to resume operation of the federal government.”
She said the tribe is exploring options, including using tribal funds over the short haul. “A prolonged shutdown could have a long-term impact for Navajo students and hinder them from continuing their college education,” she said. “In addition to delayed scholarship awards, disruptions to services like those provided by the Internal Revenue Service that provide proof of income could block Pell grants, student loans and other forms of financial aid from reaching students.”
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said: “The delay in providing much needed scholarship funds for our students due to the federal shutdown is a clear violation of the Treaty of 1868. The education of our children is critical to the growth of our Nation. We are demanding Congress and the White House to end the shutdown immediately for the sake of our students and their future.”
Congress is in recess and members are in their districts talking to people impacted by the government closure.
Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, Ho Chunk, tweeted that there are 19,000-plus federal employees in the Kansas City metro area and many more contractors. “None of whom are at fault for this #shutdown mess. That's why I fully support the bills that guarantee these hard working people receive full back pay.”
Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, Laguna Pueblo, tweeted that she met with TSA employees who are keeping the airport safe but not being paid. She has also opened up her office to hear from people feeling the impact.
Congresswoman Deb Haaland on Twitter
“My office in the state is fully staffed and ready to help New Mexicans. If you’re a federal worker or contractor who didn’t get a paycheck today, feel free to reach out and we can connect you with the State for temporary unemployment benefits. #EndTheShutdown”
In Oklahoma, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee Nation, said he continues to back the president’s push for a border wall. He pledged on Twitter and Instagram to not shave until there’s border security.
Markwayne Mullin on Twitter
“I’m sticking with my #borderbeard until we #SecureOurBorder. https://t.co/SM2BhS8tEV”
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports
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