Dear Mr. Abraham,
Thank you for contacting me about the government shutdown. I appreciate hearing from you.
It is important to note that the vast majority of the federal government is currently funded and operational. When accounting for mandatory programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which are not subject to the annual appropriations process, over ninety percent of the federal government is already fully funded for 2019.
However, there are important parts of the government that are affected by the partial shutdown. Each year, Congress is supposed to enact twelve appropriations bills paying for $1.3 trillion-plus in discretionary federal programs. This fiscal year, Congress has passed and the President has signed into law five appropriations bills that cover many programs, including the Departments of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor. Together, these five bills provided full-year funding (through September 30, 2019) for agencies and functions that make up about 75 percent of the government’s discretionary budget.
Unfortunately, Congress did not pass the remaining seven appropriations bills by October 1, 2018, and instead approved a short-term “continuing resolution.” The House and Senate had until midnight on December 21, 2018 to reach an agreement, but an impasse over funding for a border wall resulted in the current partial government shutdown.
This partial shutdown is a disappointing situation for all parties involved, but I believe there is a deal to be made. As the Senate’s failed procedural vote on December 22, 2018 showed, it will require the White House to negotiate with the Senate Minority Leader and the Speaker of the House. This should not be an impossible feat, given that Democrats have voted in the past for a wall. In 2013, every Senate Democrat supported legislation to spend $46 billion on border security and a wall. Although many of these same lawmakers are now balking about a proposal to put $5 billion toward border security, I am hopeful this impasse can be resolved soon in the 116th session of Congress.
Despite this being a partial government shutdown, there are legitimate concerns about its impact on the federal workforce. Towards this end, the Senate passed the Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act (S. 2274) on December 21, 2018 by unanimous consent. S. 2274 would require furloughed federal employees to be compensated for the period of the appropriations lapse on the earliest date possible once the shutdown ends. Although the House of Representatives did not pass S. 2274 before the conclusion of the 115th session of Congress, the House and Senate have always granted full back pay to federal workers affected by past shutdowns.
Certain press reports have stated that members of the Coast Guard would not receive their final paychecks of 2018. Unlike the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, the Coast Guard is funded by the Department of Homeland Security, which is affected by the partial shutdown. On December 28, 2018, the administration announced that Coast Guard personnel would in fact receive their final paycheck of 2018 after the Department of Homeland Security identified a way to pay Coast Guard personnel, who received those paychecks on December 31st, 2018. Meanwhile, the full Senate may soon consider legislation (S. 21) that would ensure Coast Guard members are paid while the funding impasse remains unresolved.
Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania