WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump appealed to the public to support his request for border wall funding, the second-longest government shutdown ended its 18th day and left thousands of federal workers — including 3,500 in Nevada — worried about paychecks.
In addition to worries about pay and paying mortgages, Nevadans and other Americans are contacting their representatives about the potential loss of food stamps and other government services that could end due to the impasse between Trump and congressional Democrats.
“I have received calls and emails,” said Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., sworn-in to office just last week.
Horsford said he has talked with federal union leaders, tribal leaders and constituents directly about pressing concerns. He said 3,521 federal employees in Nevada are going without pay.
Of larger concern, to Horsford, is the 34,000 people in his congressional district, which includes portions of seven mostly rural counties, who receive food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) under the Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said late Tuesday that USDA is working with states to see that the recipients of SNAP would receive benefits in February.
As federal agencies scrambled to continue operating, Trump went on national television to warn Americans about the “national security crisis” at the border and the need for $5 billion in funding for a wall.
House Democrats have rejected the wall as immoral and ineffective, and planned to begin votes on legislation Wednesday that would open the government, department by department.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said prior to Trump’s prime time televised address that the president has rejected bipartisan spending bills and a stop-gap measure to keep the government open, all the while demanding $5.7 billion for border wall funding that cannot pass in the House or Senate.
“President Trump has the power to stop hurting the country by re-opening the government and ending the Trump Shutdown,” Pelosi said.
On Wednesday, the House is expected to vote on a bill to open up the Treasury Department, which includes the Internal Revenue Service, to assure taxpayers get tax refund checks on time.
Bills to open other shuttered departments, including Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and Justice, would follow.
Trump is seeking border wall money in the spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security, also shuttered. Democrats have offered a stop-gap bill to open the department until Feb. 8 to allow negotiations on funding to continue.
A bipartisan Senate bill negotiated last year included $1.3 billion in border security funding for fencing and technology, but none for a wall, a key campaign promise by Trump, who also claimed Mexico would finance the barrier.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will attend the Senate GOP policy lunch on Wednesday to rally support for his border wall request.
Republican support for the shutdown has eroded, with seven GOP lawmakers voting with Democrats last week to reopen the government and Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine, who both face re-election in 2020, voicing support for passing spending bills for other departments while negotiations on the border wall funding continue.
But conservatives in the House, and many in the Senate, back the president on his request and his threat to veto legislation that does not include the funds.
Trump has tried to characterize the immigration issue at the border, where caravans of undocumented immigrants from Central America are trying to enter and request asylum, as a national security emergency.
Administration claims that terrorists are coming through the Southwest border have been found to be inaccurate by independent fact-checking organizations, and arrests of undocumented immigrants at the border have dropped substantially in recent years.
Nevada’s Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen have urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up the previously passed House bills to reopen the government.
Cortez Masto voted against bringing a Senate bill to the floor to strengthen security in the Middle East until the shutdown is ended, federal employees are paid and people receive benefits.
If the shutdown continues, federal workers would lose their first paycheck on Jan. 11.
“On Friday, thousands of federal workers in Nevada and across the country will miss their first paycheck if President Trump and Leader McConnell continue to hold our country hostage,” Cortez Masto said.
“The President is asking already struggling Nevadans to sacrifice even more as they fight to provide for their families,” she added.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said Nevadans were losing a paycheck over a campaign boast to force Mexico to build a wall that it opposes.
“I hope the president will soon recognize that the American people have had enough of this latest Trump tantrum,” Titus said.
Rep. Mark Amodei, the only Republican in the Nevada congressional delegation, blamed the Senate and House Democratic leaders last week for failing to resolve the shutdown and provide funds for a border wall.
House Republicans late last year rejected a stop-gap spending bill passed by the Senate after Trump, who had signalled he would sign it, reversed course when conservative commentators accused him of caving to Democrats’ demands.
A rewritten bill including $5.7 billion in border funding was then approved and sent back to the Senate, where it failed to receive enough Republican votes to begin debate.
The shutdown began on Dec. 22 when Republicans, Democrats and Trump failed to find common ground to move forward.