26 JAN 2019
On Friday, President Donald Trump agreed to temporarily reopen the government and provide back pay for 800,000 federal employees, bringing the longest shutdown in U.S. history to a close.
The deal, negotiated with the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate, provides funding at previous levels through February 15. It does not include funds for a wall along the southern border, the president’s key demand throughout the shutdown. Negotiations on border security will continue while the White House and Congress work towards a long-term appropriations package.
The agreement will come as welcome news to 42,000 active-duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard, who have gone without pay since December 31. Over the past four weeks, the countless stories of Coast Guard families trying to make ends meet have captured media attention across the nation. Some service members have sold their cars or belongings; many have used aid from food banks or charitable donations; and many more have taken out loans, including low-interest options provided by aid organizations. Unlike civilian federal employees, coastguardsmen could not quit to seek paying work: active-duty service members cannot leave the military without authorization.
In an address to service members released earlier this week, USCG Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz directly criticized the shutdown and the lack of Coast Guard pay. “You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden,” he said. “Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as service members.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray issued a similar video statement to the agency’s employees on Friday. “It’s mind-boggling, it’s short-sighted and it’s unfair,” he said. “It takes a lot to get me angry, but I’m about as angry as I’ve been in a long, long time.”
In his address on Friday, President Trump expressed his gratitude to the federal workforce for its patience and its support. “I want to thank all of the amazing federal workers and their incredible families, who have shown such extraordinary devotion in the face of this recent hardship . . . many of you have suffered far greater than anyone but your families would know or understand,” Trump said. “And not only did you not complain, but in many cases you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about our country and about its border security.”
The continuing negotiations on border wall funding may result in a second shutdown or a declaration of national emergency at the border, the president warned. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15th again – or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” he said.