The partial shutdown of the government that Republicans and Democrats voted unanimously to prevent—the shutdown created by Donald Trump who had agreed to sign the bill which would have extended debate on border security, and whether or not Trump should be able to seize private property to build a vanity wall—continues while the press continues to struggle with presenting this issue to voters. Democrats and Republicans also muddy the waters on this to appease their most energized base. The border has received increases in funding that have led to miles and miles of fencing, drone usage and more border patrol agents than ever before. Part of that border is mountains, still more is a wide moat in the form of the Rio Grande River, and yes, there’s also sand.
Trump’s wall as, his former campaign aides revealed, was a mnemonic device—it was a phrase that triggered Mr. Trump to remember to talk about being tough on immigration. It made a certain degree of sense; Trump thinks of himself as a builder and building a wall with his name on it somewhere would definitely be something he’d want to talk about. It became a chant at his rallies that is still being used by his supporters. The other half of the chant, “Mexico is going to pay for it,” has proven to be the ridiculous lie it always was. Donald knows this, which he proved, by agreeing to keep the discussion of the American tax payers funding his concrete/steel slat/see-through barrier wall and also keeping the government open. It was to be a reasonable move on his part.
But multi-millionaires, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh—people who have made their fortunes convincing some American citizens to hate other American citizens—had a fit. They convinced Donald that he would lose his base of support if he drew out the debate on the wall by allowing Congress to fund the government. Leader Mitch McConnell then decided inexplicably to allow the government to shut down even after he voted with the entire Senate to keep it open. To clarify positions, the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, demonstrated that the Democratic portion of the Congress was still willing to join McConnell and reopen the government. But McConnell now refuses to hold a vote to reopen the government. So here we are. This is not a Democrats vs. Republicans conflict. Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell have just decided that it is in their political interest to partially shut down the federal government until they can force Speaker Pelosi to appropriate tax dollars to build a vanity wall.
Democrats have never backed away from funding and sometimes expanding exponentially the various tools that are used on our Southern border. When the media explains something like this, with context, it sounds like it might be politically motivated against Republicans. It’s not. The Senate Republicans went on the record to keep the Government open. This is just the reality that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are choosing to keep the government partially shut down for their own reasons.
Mr. Trump won the state of Tennessee without much trouble in the 2016 election. Tennesseans weren’t interested enough in the Blue Wave of 2018 to show much of a change. They easily elected Marsha Blackburn to the Senate over a wildly popular two-time governor, they elected a Republican business owner with no political experience over a successful mayor of their capital city, and outside of gerrymandered Democratic seats, elected Republicans across the board—including a WWE wrestler for mayor in Knox county. In exchange for a pro-Trump cadre of state and federal officials, Tennesseans have received a partial shutdown of that big intrusive federal government they’re always hearing about only to find that that resulted in many of their neighbors being sent to the food banks and others losing vital services. It wasn’t just “the takers” who suffered. It was them. It was their neighbors and their families. The message has at least temporarily broken through. The government isn’t a thing. It’s people doing their best to serve people.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that some of those people receiving those $0 paychecks are TSA workers. TSA workers are on the front line when it comes to national security. They keep air travel safe, and work every day to ensure the country never has to feel the way it did on 9/11. The Sentinel reports that Second Harvest Food Bank was delivering care boxes containing food collected in their charity drives for 92 families at McGhee Tyson Airport and is providing 325 boxes to Nashville International (BNA), 171 boxes in Memphis, and additional boxes at smaller airports around the Volunteer State.
The Sentinel points out that as federal workers, TSA workers are limited to accepting $20 in gifts. This became particularly dicey when the Salvation Army wanted to offer gift cards for their thrift stores to furloughed workers and those working, but waiting, on paychecks that will come whenever Mr. Trump decides that Mr. McConnell can reopen the government. This, of course, is not how the government is supposed to work. Leader McConnell needs only a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to override any potential veto. There’s no indication that McConnell could not garner enough votes to do so. He has personally decided to not pass any bills Mr. Trump might disapprove of. Typically, the Senate Majority Leader is not a subordinate to the executive branch—that’s actually not constitutional. Congress and the executive branch are co-equal bodies.
Tennessee was not hit hard by the shutdown mostly because its share of government workers in the state is largely funded by portions of the government that are not impacted by the partial shutdown. NPR reports that 6500 Tennesseans could be directly impacted by the shutdown and many are working without pay. These include departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, State, Transportation and Treasury and also the Department of the Interior, which TN feels personally at Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Land Between the Lakes and the Stones River National Battlefield. NPR interviewed an employee from the National Weather Service where he and a co-worker are working without pay. The co-worker’s wife needs emergency surgery. Jason Wright told NPR, “Unfortunately, he does not know if he is going to get paid,” Wright explained to NPR. “It’s just a tall, a very dark rain cloud. There’s no sun on the other side.”
It’s wrong for federal employees to work and not get a paycheck. I want you to know that I’m doing everything I can to reopen the government.
— Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) January 12, 2019
Close your eyes and picture your boss. Your boss has just told you that he wants something he’s not getting, so you have to work without pay for an undetermined amount of time and in the meantime just make other arrangements. Others are told they’re going to be laid off indefinitely, and others are working without pay as contractors and may never see a paycheck. All because your boss wants something. Would that be something your family could live with? Around the press you’ll hear that there’s a shutdown because two sides can’t come to an agreement. It’s not true. The two sides came to an agreement. The government is shut down because Donald Trump wants it closed down and because Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is allowing him to do that. The US Congress would be relieved to vote to reopen it at any time. Senator Lamar Alexander tweeted that he’s, “..doing everything I can to reopen the government.”
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