December 22, 2018 In The News, Media

New Jersey lawmakers react to federal government shutdown

Burlington County Times
December 22, 2018

Parts of the federal government were forced to shut down for the third time in less than a year Saturday, as federal lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on a short-term funding measure for some $5 billion sought by President Donald Trump for construction of a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

What does that mean for New Jersey and Burlington County specifically?

Not as much as during past shutdowns, as the Department of Defense, which is the largest federal employer in Burlington County and the state, is still funded, along with about three-quarters of the federal government, through Sept. 30 next year thanks to appropriations bills that were approved and signed into law this summer.

The other quarter of the government must shut down because appropriations related to their departments and programs have not been approved, and a continuing resolution to keep them funded at existing levels stalled amid disagreement over funding for Trump’s long-promised border wall.

Here’s the local impacts of the shutdown, and what New Jersey’s congressional delegation is saying:

What happened

This shutdown shouldn’t have caught many people by surprise. For months, Trump has said he would allow the government to close if Congress failed to approve funding for the wall and Democrats have steadfastly insisted they would not support it.

The crisis appeared close to being averted earlier last week when the Senate approved a bipartisan bill to keep the government open into February while providing $1.3 billion for border security improvements, but not a wall. However, Trump announced he would not sign the Senate measure.

The U.S. House responded by approving a temporary financing measure with an additional $5.7 billion for the border wall, as well as $7.8 billion for disaster relief. It was approved by a largely party line vote of 217-185, with all five of New Jersey’s Republican members voting in favor of the measure and all seven Democrats opposing.

The vote sent the measure back to the Senate, where a test vote failed to garner the 60 affirmative votes needed to advance the bill. After 11th-hour negotiations failed to bring a resolution, the government began shutting down at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

What’s impacted

Since some appropriations are signed, employees in the departments of Defense, Education, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Labor, Health and Human Services and the legislative branch are not impacted by the latest shutdown. But with some appropriations bills unsigned, the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, plus some other small agencies, are still unfunded and all but essential employees and programs will be subject to the shutdown order.

An estimated 420,000 workers are deemed essential and will work unpaid just days before Christmas. An additional 380,000 will be furloughed, meaning they will stay home without pay. In New Jersey, an estimated 5,000 government workers are expected to be impacted.

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