New Jersey congressional leaders react to ongoing government shutdown

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

The standoff continues. At the federal building in Paterson Wednesday, some offices were open, some closed. Nearby the Great Falls National Park was accessible, but the sign at the welcome center said closed “… because of a lapse in federal appropriations.”

At the federal building in Newark, it was much the same. The building was open but certain agencies were closed.

The shutdown affects the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, Agriculture, Interior, the IRS and the EPA. Farm subsidies, food banks and soup kitchens, Section 8 housing applications, small business loans, highway improvements, and dozens of other federal programs are on hold.

At issue is President Donald Trump’s insistence on building a wall along the southern border. He told his Cabinet Wednesday that walls can be essential.

“There’s a reason why politicians and wealthy people build walls around their houses and their compounds. President Obama recently built a wall around his compound,” Trump said.

He blamed the partial shutdown clearly on Congressional Democrats.

“We’re in the shutdown because of the fact that the Democrats are looking to 2020. They think they’re not going to win the election. I guess a lot of signs point to the fact that they’re not going to win the election. I hope they’re not going to win the election, but they view this as an election point for them. I actually think it’s bad politics, but I’m not thinking about politics. I’m thinking about what’s right and what’s wrong,” Trump said.

New Jersey’s two U.S. senators were in Newark Wednesday for the swearing-in of 4-term Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. They blame the shutdown on Trump and his fixation on a wall.

“Most experts will tell you a wall is not going to solve our immigration problem. Secondly, if you want to solve the problem we’re having right now, you have to deal with Central America. The wall’s not going to deal with that,” Sen. Bob Menendez said.

About 400,000 essential personnel, like TSA airport screeners, are working without pay. Another 400,000 federal workers are on furlough without pay. They’re the ones Booker says he is thinking about.

“We are a nation that cares about each other, and these are folks who, many of us understand that we couldn’t live without a paycheck. If affects families, puts stress, strain. And for this to be projected to go on for many more days, that’s just unacceptable. And then you add to that the strongest government on planet Earth can’t keep its government open,” Sen. Cory Booker said.

Congresswoman-elect Mikie Sherrill said Wednesday she won’t accept her paycheck as long as federal employees aren’t getting theirs.

It looks like the shutdown is far from over. Federal workers missing their pay are the most immediate victims of the hyperpartisan bickering.