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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Local lawmakers see end to shutdown with Trump announcement, remain at odds on wall funding

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 25, 2019, 9:12 p.m.

President Donald Trump walks through the colonnade of the White House on arrival to announce a deal to temporarily reopen the government Friday from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP)
President Donald Trump walks through the colonnade of the White House on arrival to announce a deal to temporarily reopen the government Friday from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP)

Local lawmakers heralded the deal that opened all parts of the federal government after a 35-day partial shutdown.

But both sides appeared far apart on the central issue that caused the record-long impasse in Congress: President Donald Trump’s request of $5.7 billion to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers applauded the deal for giving surety to federal workers who have been ordered home or to work without pay during the shutdown. But she put the blame on Democrats for not budging on negotiations with the administration over border security.

“No one benefits from a shutdown, and by reopening the government we are providing relief to federal workers who have been furloughed or working without pay,” McMorris Rodgers said in a prepared statement Friday afternoon. “With that being said, this is only a three-week extension, and both parties need to come together around a compromise to secure our border and provide certainty for DACA recipients. I’m disappointed Democrats continue to obstruct that compromise by refusing to negotiate. This is a priority of the American people and a fundamental responsibility of the federal government.”

A spokesman for McMorris Rodgers clarified that the priority of the American people the congresswoman was referring to was border security.

Sen. Patty Murray, who has used Twitter to amplify the voices of Washington’s estimated 16,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown, said she’d support the deal to reopen the government but encouraged Republicans to work with Democrats to “clean up the mess that President Trump created for absolutely no reason.”

“Democrats have made it clear that we don’t support using American taxpayer dollars to pay for the wasteful wall that President Trump promised Mexico would pay for, but we’ve also made it clear that we are of course willing to continue working with Republicans on responsible border security once the shutdown ends,” Murray said in a statement.

Gov. Jay Inslee, seen as a potential Democratic foe of Trump in the 2020 presidential campaign, also blasted the White House for insisting upon a physical barrier at the border, a proposal recent polls have shown more Americans oppose than support.

“We all know the shutdown was never about border security,” Inslee said in a statement. “There is simply no excuse for shutting down the government, inflicting pain on 800,000 public servants and threatening basic services for millions of Americans to fulfill a broken campaign promise.”

A poll released Thursday by the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that 49 percent of Americans oppose the construction of a border wall with Mexico, while 36 percent are in favor. The poll was conducted by telephone last week and carries a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

That poll found that the opinions about the wall were largely influenced by party affiliation. Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho said he’d continue to push in Congress for a wall.

“Government shutdowns are never the answer, so I will of course support the President’s proposal to open the government while negotiations continue, but over the next three weeks I will continue to advocate for sufficient security measures and a wall along our nation’s southern border,” Risch said in a statement.

Risch’s colleague, Sen. Mike Crapo, tweeted a similar statement of support for the short-term agreement.

“We need to take advantage of this agreement timeframe to come to a long-term solution about securing our southern border,” Crapo tweeted.

The deal Trump announced in the Rose Garden doesn’t include any new money for a wall, instead shifting the question to a bipartisan panel of Congressional lawmakers who will have until Feb. 15 to plot a path forward on the politically divisive question. Democrats were quick to point out that the deal Trump agreed to was similar to the one he shot down in December that would have avoided the shutdown.

All of the region’s lawmakers voted for legislation Trump has signed that will provide back pay to furloughed employees and those who were required to work without pay during the shutdown. The legislation, which the president signed Jan. 16, directs that those workers receive back pay “on the earliest date possible” after the shutdown ends, which could be as soon as Monday.

As the shutdown stretched past a month, Washington saw more federal workers filing claims for unemployment benefits. That figure stood at 2,280 federal workers Friday, said Janelle Guthrie, communications director for the Washington Employment Security Department.

The agency also fielded calls Friday from federal workers in the state who’ve been required to work during the shutdown, but hadn’t been paid. Inslee announced Thursday the state would extend benefits to those workers as well, and the department had already received 130 calls for assistance, Guthrie said.

“They could still start the process if they wanted, in anticipation of a future shutdown,” Guthrie said of those unpaid workers who hadn’t yet contacted their office.

That day may come soon. The deal lawmakers and Trump reached only opens the government until Feb. 15. But in those three weeks, workers at the Department of Agriculture can begin processing paperwork for the region’s farmers in accordance with the new federal farm bill that passed Congress in December. That hasn’t happened, even though Farm Service Agencies throughout the country reopened this week to process financial claims from last year.

“That was one of our concerns,” said Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers. “The longer the shutdown lasted, the longer that would be delayed.”

Both chambers of Congress approved the short-term spending deal by voice vote, a process typically held for noncontroversial measures, on Friday evening.

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