McConnell blocks second bill aimed at reopening the government
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked another bill aimed at reopening the government Tuesday, as the record-breaking shutdown stretches into its fourth week.
The legislation would fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 8 and the rest of the agencies affected by the shutdown through September. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) asked for the Senate to take up the package, but McConnell said Tuesday that he would not “participate in something that doesn’t lead to an outcome.”
“The solution to this is a negotiation between the one person in the country who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues,” McConnell said Tuesday. “Here in the Senate, my Democratic colleagues have an important choice to make. They could stand with common sense border experts, with federal workers, and with their own past voting records, by the way, or they could continue to remain passive spectators complaining from the sidelines, as the speaker refuses to negotiate with the White House.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) encouraged McConnell Tuesday to engage in the negotiations.
“There’s only one person who can help America break through this gridlock: Leader McConnell,” Schumer said. “For the past month, Leader McConnell has been content to hide behind the president, essentially giving him a veto over what comes to the floor of the Senate.”
The shutdown, now on its 25th day, first began back on December 21, after President Donald Trump and his Republican congressional allies refused to budge on his demand for $5 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats have so far refused to acquiesce to that demand, and some House Republicans have since joined them to help push legislation to re-open the government through the House.
Already, the shutdown has had a dramatic effect on federal workers and millions of other Americans across the country.
Last Friday was supposed to be payday for federal employees, nearly 800,000 of whom are furloughed or working without pay. As ThinkProgress previously reported, employees are missing out on $2 billion worth of paychecks every two weeks as the shutdown continues.
Additionally, as The New York Times reported last week, the FDA has stopped routine food inspections of seafood, fruits, and vegetables, and many people who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to feed their families could be looking at a cut in benefits if the shutdown continues into February.
Many employees have also reportedly begun filing unemployment claims or considered taking out loans to cover their monthly expenses. While many could use the assistance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the agency is on the verge of running out of funding. More than 19 million families rely on the program, and small businesses that accept SNAP will also take a major hit.
One TSA employee who spoke to ThinkProgress last month said workers may soon have to cancel future travel plans to attend important events like family members’ funerals, and others have begun turning to food banks for assistance in making ends meet.
Survivors of domestic violence could be affected next. According to a Politico report published Friday, shelters across the country that rely on Department of Justice funding have begun warning that they can only process funding requests through January 18, Friday of next week. Some employees have reportedly been buying supplies with their own money, despite not knowing whether they will receive their next paycheck.
There have also been reports of damage in national parks across the country, a change from previous shutdowns, as many National Park Service sites remain open without adequate staffing. In Joshua Tree, the parks namesake protected trees have been cut down and the park has been vandalized. At other national park sites, toilets and garbage cans are overflowing and visitors are driving and hiking in areas typically banned to the public.
Trump meanwhile, has vacillated between claiming he may allow the shutdown to go on for “months or years” and saying it should be resolved quickly.