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Congress is taking the weekend off as federal workers face their first empty payday

There's no end in sight to the prolonged shutdown

by Emma Ockerman
Jan 11 2019, 5:11pm

As thousands of federal workers face their first skipped pay cycle since the partial government shutdown began three weeks ago, there doesn’t seem to be much urgency in D.C. to get things back up and running: Congress is taking the weekend off.

As of Thursday afternoon around 2, many Congress members were seen ditching the Capitol already, apparently resigned to a prolonged standoff over the president’s demand for border-wall funding, as part of the budget that keeps the government open. The House is scheduled to vote on another funding bill Friday; the Senate convened at 10 a.m. but isn’t scheduled for a vote.

Congress did work last weekend to try to reopen the government, but they couldn’t deliver on President Trump’s requested $5.7 billion for construction of a southern border wall. And the president had meetings with Democrat leaders this week but didn't make any progress, as both sides seem dug-in. The impasse has created what's on track to be the longest-ever shutdown in U.S. history (if it goes past Friday), with 800,000 federal workers directly impacted and thousands of government contractors and nonprofit workers caught in the fray.

Members of Congress will continue to be paid during the shutdown, although some are voluntarily forgoing their paychecks. They make at least $174,000 annually.

Typically, Congress works nights and weekends to reopen the government during a shutdown. This time around, the influential GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said he doesn’t “see a way forward.” It’s possible that Trump will declare a national emergency to access funding for a southern border wall, rather than continuing the shutdown, but it’s not clear when or how that declaration would occur. In many instances, the financial damage has already been done for the thousands of federal workers who live paycheck-to-paycheck and are selling their things and starting up GoFundMe pages to get by.

Right now, despite how many federal workers are stuck in turmoil, Congress doesn’t feel a ton of pressure to get the government back online, according to BuzzFeed News. Some Republicans support a short-term spending bill to reopen the government while border negotiations continue, but the fate of the shutdown is ultimately in Trump’s hands. House Democrats have repeatedly attempted to pass a spending bill, but Senate Republicans are unlikely to send up a bill that the president won’t sign.

Cover: Alexander Kerr, 6, of Warrington, Va., whose father is an air traffic controller, holds a sign near an air traffic and pilot unions protest against the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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