Senator John Boozman's Weekly Column-Dear Senator: Answers about the Partial Government Shutdown

I’m disappointed that differences in funding priorities has resulted in a partial government shutdown. Republicans and Democrats must come to the table to find a solution so we can end this partial shutdown and allow all federal agencies to provide the service Arkansans and all Americans expect and deserve. I’ve received many phone calls, letters and emails about the partial shutdown and I want to share a few answers to some of the frequently asked questions.


Why is this called a partial government shutdown?


Congress approved and President Donald Trump signed into law five spending bills that fund federal agencies in advance of Fiscal Year 2019, which began in October. The remaining seven appropriations bills that fund the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State, Treasury and Justice were operating under a short-term spending bill that expired on December 21, 2018. The Senate advanced, with my support, a bill that would have avoided this partial shutdown, but the president said he would not sign it because there was not enough funding to improve border security. While the House of Representatives passed a bill that included the president’s newly requested level of funding for border security, the Senate was unable to move forward with the bill.


Do you think we should shut down the government until we address this crisis?


I agree with the president’s call for increased resources to defend our borders. I am hopeful we can find a solution that expands investments in border security and resume government operations among federal agencies. 


I am a member of the Senate Border Security and Enforcement First Immigration Caucus and have visited our southern border on numerous occasions. I believe we need increased funding to protect our borders. National security is the federal government’s highest responsibility and we must allocate resources in support of border protection in order to accurately reflect this priority. I supported the president’s original budget request for border security funding in the Fiscal Year 2019 Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill when it passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and I will continue advocating for increased resources for manpower, technology and infrastructure —including roads for access, electronic devices for surveillance and fencing for deterrence–– in order to reduce illegal border crossings.


I will continue working with the president and my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to find a solution that is agreeable to all parties and end the instability created by this partial federal government shutdown, but I do not believe such a disruption in services and uncertainty for federal employees is in the best interest of Arkansans, or the American people. Federal employees should never be in the unfortunate position where they worry when they will receive their paycheck.


What happens to federal workers employed at agencies that are not funded?


Many federal employees are furloughed. Others who work in public safety fields —such as FBI agents, border security personnel, TSA agents and Coast Guard employees —are working without pay. The Senate and House have both recently passed legislation that would compensate federal employees once the partial shutdown has ended, so all federal employees within the affected agencies will be compensated. The president has indicated that he will sign this bill.


How can a government shutdown be avoided in the future?


Working in good faith to use regular order to pass the 12 individual appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year is the way to avoid government shutdowns. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I was proud that we passed all of the bills out of the committee for Fiscal Year 2019. Unfortunately, only five of those passed the full Senate and were approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law. We must do better in the future in order to avoid this result. We can secure our borders and keep our government running at the same time because both things are necessary in order for our nation to thrive. 


1-11-19 4:04 p.m. kawx.org