POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Trump visits southern border on Day 20 of the government shutdown

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Day 20 of the partial government shutdown and a presidential visit to the U.S.-Mexico border — Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

“What they need more than anything is the barrier, the wall, call it whatever you want. Whether it’s steel or concrete, you don’t care. We need a barrier,” Trump said.

The president blames Congressional Democrats for blocking his demand for $5.7 billion to build a long wall along the southern border. But a Politico poll shows his wall, or steel slats, has little support from lawmakers who represent border districts or states — even among Republicans. It’s a fact seemingly lost on the president, who’s hinted he’d circumvent Congress and declare a national emergency. The administration’s plan is to use military money as the Pentagon says it’s making plans to construct the wall.

“We are [closer to declaring an emergency]. I would like to look at broader. I think we can do this quickly because this is common sense and it’s not expensive. We will save the cost of the wall every year, but much more than that,” Trump said.

Democrats reject the wall and full funding for it.

“What he is proposing is not the best way for us to secure our borders. And let me just make a clarity, not only was the president unpresidential — surprise, surprise — yesterday in his behavior. I think the meeting was a set up so he could walk out,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In the meantime, 800,000 federal workers — those who patrol America’s waterways and secure air travel — will miss getting paid Friday. That number includes 14,000 employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5,000 of them furloughed, creating staffing shortages at the Quantico lab and surveillance in the field.

“We believe that fully funding the FBI will lead to abilities to do our jobs completely and to the fullest ability we have. That leads to national security. This is not about politics for special agents. For special agents, financial security is national security,” said Tom O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association.

Thursday in a conference call, O’Connor dodged a question about whether the 8,000 still on the job were calling out sick.

“Whether we’re paid or not, we’re going to show up, we’re going to do our jobs, and we’re going to do it to the best of our ability,” he said.

The shutdown has sparked protests, and without question it has government workers scrambling to find less-paying jobs and creating border-to-border, coast-to-coast hardship. But it’s also leading to acts of generosity — from food to fitness.

“Until you guys start getting paid again, you’re more than welcome to come to train at Brunswick Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for free,” said Garry Tonon, head instructor at Jiu Jitsu studio.

If the shutdown funding a wall goes past Saturday, it would become the longest in federal government history.