WASHINGTON — Congress made no progress Wednesday in ending a partial government shutdown — now more than two weeks old — that has left some 800,000 federal workers without paychecks and raised concerns over the impact it is having on government programs from small business assistance to air traffic controllers.
“It’s déjà vu all over again,” said Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, citing the famous malapropism from former New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra to describe House Democrats insistence on passing four individual agency appropriations bills on Wednesday that are no different than a continuing resolution passed last week by Democrats that President Trump has threatened to veto and, regardless, won’t be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Why go through that exercise rather than reach a true compromise that will end the shutdown and provide border security, he wondered aloud on the House floor. Meanwhile, the standoff between Trump and Democrats in Congress continues. Trump insists on funding for a border wall while Democrats say they won’t allow government to be “held hostage” over the wall dispute.
Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut said Wednesday that it makes sense to keep applying pressure on Republicans in Congress to end the shutdown.
“I think it is incumbent on us to continue to push to open the government and it seems to me passing bills that have already been passed unanimously in the Senate is a pretty good place to start. They can stand with the President on a shutdown if they want but they are going to be pretty exposed if they do that because this shutdown is causing a lot of pain,” he said in an interview.
Himes noted that the shutdown appears to have cost Norwalk a pizza shop. Planet Pizza, he said, was hoping to secure a loan from the Small Business Administration but the government shutdown put that on hold.
“That is a small business that is disappearing because of this shutdown,” he said.
News 12 reported that the pizza shop had sought an SBA loan to help defray the cost of a $12,000 air-conditioning system. Dave Kuban, owner of Planet Pizza, told the news station that “more and more places are closing.”
The House was voting Wednesday night largely along party lines for the spending bills that would have reopened many of the agencies impacted by the current partial shutdown. The entire Connecticut delegation supported the effort, but several acknowledged that they don’t see a clear path forward to end the gridlock.
The first bill was approved, 240-188, early Wednesday evening to fund financial services and general government with eight Republicans in favor. No Democrat opposed it.
Representative Jahana Hayes said she had “no update on the shutdown” other than that House Democrats were looking to fund individual departments one at a time.
“I could not be more eager to get this government up and running,” she said, noting that her office is hearing concerns from people worried about the impact of a drawn out shutdown.
“People are worried about what happens next,” she said, noting that the IRS could face “significant delays” in getting out tax refunds and that there is “tremendous concern” about what may happen with nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC.
“Many of these people are working Americans who are using these programs as a supplement,” she said. “And, then you have elderly people who depend on these programs. As a government we have a responsibility to insure they are in place. I’m hoping we get movement this week. I do not want to leave Washington without getting something done.”
Representative Joe Courtney said he hopes Republicans will listen to their constituents who are suffering because of the shutdown and start working with Democrats on getting the government open. He said he is hearing “powerful” stories from constituents on what the shutdown means to them. On Tuesday, he read a letter on the House floor from a Waterford man who is serving in Afghanistan with the State Department.
In the letter, the man notes that over the last decade he has been shot at in Afghanistan and trapped in a burning embassy in Serbia serving his country. “I support our government’s policies in difficult environments, and I expect my government to meet their commitment to me and my family,” he wrote.
Courtney has also spoken with air traffic controllers working at Bradley Airport, who are working 10-hour shifts with no support staff.
“Air traffic is being worked to the bone,” Courtney said.
Meanwhile, President Trump met with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to discuss the impasse. Afterward, he told reporters that Senate Republicans support his efforts at getting funding for the border wall.
“Republicans are totally unified,” he said. “We want safety for our country.”
Trump met later at the White House with Congressional leaders but appeared to make no headway on ending the shutdown.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the meeting was brief. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters outside the White House that the president just walked out of the meeting.
“We saw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way,” Schumer said.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who was not at the meeting, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday urging Trump and the Republicans to reopen the government that has left over 1,000 federal workers in Connecticut without a paycheck.
“This whole crisis can be over tonight if there is some leadership shown by Senate republicans,” Murphy said. “Why spend all this time trying to control this body? Why spend millions of dollars trying to run for office to become the majority party in the United States Senate if you’re not willing to step up at a moment of crisis and lead the country through it?”