After weeks of partisan gridlock over whether taxpayers should spend $5.7 billion more on a wall, fence or steel barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, lawmakers who represent Prince William County seemed to find bipartisan agreement on one thing Friday: Congress should never again allow another government shutdown.
Prince William, with its population at about 460,000, is represented by three members of the U.S. House of Representatives as well as Virginia’s two senators.
Four of the five are Democrats. Rep. Rob Wittman, a Republican, represents the 1st District, which includes a large swath of the county extending from Interstate 66 to Quantico.
In statements issued after President Donald Trump (R) made his Rose Garden announcement Friday, all five called on Congress to take steps over the next few weeks to ensure federal agencies are never again paralyzed by partisan dysfunction.
The Democratic lawmakers were more critical of Trump. Sen. Tim Kaine (D) said Trump “tyrannized hardworking public servants in an attempt to force Congress to do what he wants.”
But even Wittman, now in his sixth term, said Congress should prevent future shutdowns. Wittman has long called for reforms to the federal budgeting process.
“Members of Congress should not be paid if the work is not done, and federal employees should not suffer the consequences for congressional inaction,” Wittman said. “Never again should federal employees be held hostage.”
Wittman’s statement did not mention a border wall, per se, but called on Congress to “address our broken immigration system and border security needs.”
He also called on lawmakers to advance a number of changes to legal immigration that are generally supported by Republicans but opposed by Democrats, including ending what some call “chain migration,” a term used to describe immigration policies that favor immigrants’ immediate family members, and “eliminating the visa-lottery system.”
Wittman called them “reforms we should consider.” He also called for the enhanced use of e-verify, presumably to hold employers accountable for hiring immigrants who lack permission to work in the U.S.
On the Senate floor Friday, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) welcomed the decision by President Trump to work with congressional Democrats and temporarily reopen the government and called for legislation to “automatically maintain level funding” if appropriations lapse in the future.
Warner noted Trump’s announcement came on federal workers’ second missed payday and said they have been “held hostage through no fault of their own.”
“But frankly, that’s just scratching the surface of this destructive shutdown.That number doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of federal contractors not getting paid.That number doesn’t count the harm being done to small businesses whose customers who are furloughed or working without pay.The truth is, the damage is done for these folks,” Warner said.“There’s no way to undo the harm done to the food truck owners outside the Smithsonian or the restaurants outside of national parks.”
Warner also called for legislation to give back pay to low-wage federal contractors who lost income during the 35-day shutdown. He said he is willing to compromise on funding for “effective border security measures,” such as more equipment to screen vehicles and cargo coming over the border.
Warner also noted the “opportunity to find to provide real, long-term certainty” for DREAMers and temporary protected status recipients.
“It is my hope that in the coming weeks, we can have a good-faith negotiation where both sides have an opportunity to come out ahead. Enough of the stunts and the political tit-for-tat we’ve seen over the past few weeks,” Warner added. “If there’s any good that can come from this shutdown, let’s make sure this is the last time a president is able to shut down the government as a negotiating tactic.”
Kaine also called on Congress to ensure a shutdown “is never again used as a negotiating tactic.”
“I’m relieved we passed a bill to end this shutdown so millions of Americans can receive the government services they’ve been forced to go without and, because of our back pay bill, federal employees will finally get their paychecks,” Kaine said.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-10th, called the shutdown a “debacle” that “accomplished nothing other than to lower our nation’s standing in the world and attack our already overburdened federal workforce.”
“Using shutdowns as leverage in policy negotiations never works, and I hope this President now recognizes that he must never do it again,” Wexton said.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-11th, called the shutdown “unconscionable."
“It is incomprehensible that it took President Trump 35 days to finally realize his shutdown is so harmful to the American people,” Connolly said. “While I am pleased he has agreed to reopen government and get federal employees and contractors back to work, it is still unconscionable that he would hold them hostage in the first place. He must never do this again.”
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