Resources for Teachers and Students
FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 21, 2019
Painful impact of partial federal shutdown grows in week five, and so does pressure to end it
Read about one or more workers affected and share a quote.
Look for reporting on the impact in your city or state. What's affected and how?
Now pick a Washington article on shutdown developments. Summarize what's new.
Key parts of the U.S. government have been shut since Dec. 22 because of a dispute between the president and Democrats in Congress. The shutdown, which hit its 31st day as this week begins, is the longest of its kind in national history. (The previous record was 21 days in 1995-96.) The standoff is over Donald Trump's insistence on $5.7 billion for a wall on the American-Mexican border, a demand Democrats oppose. As a result, lawmakers haven't passed budget legislation needed to continue federal spending, keeping 800,000 employees off their jobs at nine cabinet departments. Thousands of others classified as essential, such as airport security agents, must work even though paychecks won't come until the shutdown ends. Some airport screeners use sick days to protest the deadlock or look for temporary jobs. Thousands of temporarily idled workers have applied for unemployment benefits. A federal workers' union has gone to court, saying it's "inhumane" to require work without timely pay. Frustrated workers have protested outside federal buildings in several cities. (See video below.) This coming Friday, they'll miss their second round of paychecks unless the standoff ends by then.
Neither side has blinked in more than four weeks, even as the impact spreads and public anger grows. A poll last week showed that 70 percent of Americans say that shutting the federal government in order to reach an agreement on government policy is a bad strategy Support for a border wall is around 40 percent in four major polls. The president's popularity also has fallen in recent weeks. Four national surveys this month put his approval ratings at below 40 percent.
A new skirmish flared when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the senior Democratic representative, asked Trump last week not to deliver his State of the Union address in Congress on Jan. 29 unless the government reopens. He retaliated a day later by grounding a military flight that was to take her and other Congress members to Afghanistan for military briefings and to greet U.S. soldiers.
Meanwhile, federal workers and millions of other Americans are affected nationwide in all kinds of ways. "How are we going to pay rent? How are we going to pay out bills? How in the hell are we going to eat?" asks Gregory Simpkins, a government employee in Detroit. North Carolina schools are scaling back government-financed lunches to conserve food. Experiments in federal labs are halted, putting some sensitive ones at risk. Applications for business loans are stalled. Inspections of salad greens, cheese and other foods have stopped. National Parks are closed or open without supervision or maintenance, letting trash pile up. Some immigration hearings are delayed, adding to a huge backlog. Restaurants and other businesses serving lots of federal workers are hard-hit. The Smithsonian museums and National Zoo in Washington, D.C., have been shut all month. "The president gets to sleep soundly while he plays political and partisan games and the lives of Americans are put in harm's way," Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, said on the House floor last week.
President says: "Why would Nancy Pelosi leave the Country with other Democrats on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid." – Jan. 18 tweet
Federal worker says: "I'm hurting financially. I count on each and every paycheck to pay my bills. I should be back at work and I should be getting paid for my time." -- Talten Hall, 54, gardener at parks around White House
Columnist says: "The shutdown situation is bleak. All taxpayers should be outraged that much of the government is out of order." – Joe Davidson, The Washington Post
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