As hectic holiday planning and travel occupy many Texans, the scene in Washington is also chaotic, but for very different reasons. Lawmakers are working to avoid the threat of a partial government shutdown. The agreement to keep the government open, if it passes and is signed by the president, would only keep money rolling out until February.
Kevin Diaz, Washington correspondent for the Houston Chronicle, says Trump would need $25 billion to fully fund the wall he wants, but that even the 2019 portion, which is $5 billion, isn’t likely to be approved by Congress. There, $1.6 billion in new border security money is on the table.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, famously an advocate of a government shutdown in 2013, said Thursday he opposes the Senate bill that would fund the government through February, unless wall money is added.
On Wednesday, the House passed $5 billion in border security funding, along with more money for disaster recovery, including hurricane relief in Florida and Puerto Rico.
“The Republicans threw that in there as a sweetener to gain votes, and also to hold it around Democrats’ necks,” Diaz says. “Because now, a vote against this budget bill… will go down in history as ‘Congressman so-and-so voted against disaster funding.”
If a shutdown does happen, NASA, with a large Texas workforce, would be among the agencies affected, Diaz says. National parks and forests would be affected, and so would the agency most closely associated with border security.
“The big one, also, is Department of Homeland Security,” Diaz says. “That’s really in the bull’s eye of this fight.”
Diaz says essential employees, like border patrol agents, would continue on the job, but might see their paychecks delayed until the government is funded again.
As it stands now, the shutdown is a real possibility: the Senate and House bills are not in agreement, and only the House measure includes wall funding.
“In order for this standoff to be resolved,” Diaz says “the Republicans are going to have to find nine Democrats in the Senate, because it’s 51-49 in the Senate… sometime during the day today, who are willing to voet for a funding bill that has the wall money, which they’re completely opposed to.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.