POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Trump explores alternative means of funding as shutdown deal remains elusive

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Outrage today from State Sen. Teresa Ruiz and other Jersey advocates with strong connections to Puerto Rico, who savaged Donald Trump’s alleged plan B — to reportedly appropriate funding earmarked for the island and states hit hard by natural disasters to pay for his controversial southern border wall.

“You threw the paper towel, and now you want to offer a Kleenex to mop up the disaster that you left there,” Ruiz said. “To do this, at the expense of Americans who are languishing because of devastation — is just an abomination.

Puerto Rico’s still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria.

“We’ve targeted. We’ve identified the needs. We’ve put the money there — and now, we’re taking it away? Did the need go away? I don’t think so,” said Ray Ocasio executive director of La Casa de Don Pedro.

The president, who toured the border in McAllen, Texas on Thursday, wants $5.7 billion to build a wall he claims is needed here to avert what he calls a security crisis. Congressional Democrats have refused. So Trump’s staff is reportedly looking at $13.9 billion in flood control and other disaster relief projects approved, but as yet unfunded by the Army Corps of Engineers — it’s money Trump could possibly redirect if he declares a national emergency. But the president backed off that tactic a bit today.

“So what we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency. What we want to do, we have the absolute right to do it, in many ways it is the easy way out, but this is up to Congress and it should be up to Congress and they should do it,” Trump said.

However, the Congress had already left for the weekend.

“This is just, I think, to me, one of the most disturbing situations — quite frankly, disgusting situations I’ve come across in a long time. It’s hurtful. It’s hurtful to America. It’s hurtful to our Coast Guard,” said Representative Jeff Van Drew.

Van Drew has sponsored a bill to pay the Coast Guard and workers at Atlantic County’s FAA Tech Center, essential government employees, among the 5,000 federal workers in New Jersey who missed their first paycheck today due to the shutdown.

One employee wrote, “The wall should not be used to hurt federal employees like me.” And Van Drew agrees. He says the entire immigration issue should be addressed.

“Open the government. But agree when this government is open, we’re going to have a real discussion about this issue, and there should be no prerequisites,” Van Drew said.

He also said he’s willing to join colleagues Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill, who both announced they’ll forego congressional paychecks until federal employees get theirs. Essential personnel like air traffic controllers also aren’t getting paychecks, and so many unpaid TSA screeners are calling out sick that Los Angeles Airport could temporarily close a terminal this weekend. Newark airport is monitoring the situation there. The Pilots Association warned:

“You’re playing Russian Roulette with a lot of very important moving parts,” said Captain Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International. “We’re putting in jeopardy the aviation economy itself — the whole infrastructure I’ve just described — which by the way contributes $1.5 trillion, 5 percent of the gross national product. And most importantly, we have the potential here to degrade safety.”

The House has passed several spending measures to reopen individual government agencies but without $5.7 billion for the president’s wall — they’re languishing in the Senate. Tomorrow the federal shutdown will become the longest on record.