Shutdown generates pain, controversy

The U.S. Capitol is seen  in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

The partial shutdown of the federal government triggered by President Donald Trump’s insistence on funding for a border wall is bringing hardship to government workers and inconvenience to some in the public. It’s also  generating divergent views among Philadelphia-area congressional representatives.

The impact

Amtrak, airport operations, and postal services are unaffected by the shutdown, as are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The biggest impact is largely unseen — thousands of federal employees are furloughed. Thousands more, including TSA personnel, will work without pay for now.

Tourists will see an impact.  Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Pavilion in Philadelphia will be closed, but the Independence Visitors Center, the National Constitution Center, the Museum of the American Revolution and the Betsy Ross House should remain open.

In Valley Forge National Historical Park, most park buildings and restrooms are closed, but roads, trails, grounds, parking areas and even the visitors’ center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., operated by partners of the park.

The view from Congress

Philadelphia Democratic U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle said he’s been through other government shutdowns, and he thinks this may last longer than most.

“It’s clear Donald Trump has not learned the lesson of the election last month,” Boyle said. “He and other Republicans made border security the centerpiece of their campaign, and they suffered a historic defeat, losing 40 seats.”

“Now they’re actually shutting down the government on the argument that just lost them the election,” Boyle said, an indication Trump won’t easily change his mind, and the shutdown could be a long one.

Bucks County Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick said he’s opposed to the “gamesmanship” of shutting down the government to achieve the policy objective of a border wall.

Last week, Fitzpatrick voted for Trump’s funding proposal, which included $5 billion for a wall along the Mexican border.

Once Trump made up his mind about it, that was the only package presented to the House, Fitzpatrick  said.

“Several of us took this view that a `no’ vote is essentially one to shut down the government, and I think that our most basic function is to fund the government,” Fitzpatrick said in a phone interview.

Fitzpatrick said he’s personally taken a “no budget-no pay pledge” and will refund his salary until funding for the government is restored.

He said he’s encouraging others in Congress to take the pledge.

“It causes you to think differently about these things on a personal level, because you put yourself in the position of federal government employees who in the holidays are now doing without a paycheck,” Fitzpatrick said.

Delaware County Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, who was just elected in November, made a Facebook video in front of the White House about the $5 billion Trump is seeking for the border wall.

“Five billion would cover the cost of repairing Puerto Rico’s power grid,” Scanlon says in the video, going on to list other possible uses, such as medically assisted opioid treatment for a million people, and 10 years funding for Planned Parenthood.

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