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ROCKVILLE – In a surprise move, President Donald Trump provisionally ended the longest government shutdown in history when he signed a bipartisan three-week stopgap funding measure into law on Jan. 25.
However, Trump said if the longer-term Department of Homeland Security funding bill for the rest of the fiscal year does not include funds for a border wall along the Southwest border, the shutdown maybe restored after Feb. 15.
“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” Trump said
The end of the shutdown signals a temporary defeat for Trump, who held out for Democratic leaders, including Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, to agree to a $5.7 billion border wall. In a press conference moments following Trump’s remarks, Pelosi restated her position of no funding for a wall, calling it “immoral.”
“The American people do not like it when you throw a wrench into the lives of government workers over an unrelated political dispute,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), said. “Hopefully now the president has learned his lesson.”
However, Trump continued to argue for a wall during his press conference, stating that they were “99 percent” successful and would keep criminals and illegal drugs out of the country.
“Walls should not be controversial,” Trump said. “Our country has built 654 miles of barrier over the last 15 years, and every career Border Patrol agent I have spoken with has told me that walls work. They do work.”
Following the end of the shutdown, County Councilmember Sidney Katz (D-3) said he hopes a partial federal government shutdown never happens again.
“It would certainly be to everyone’s benefit throughout the United States if this shutdown were over,” Katz said. “It truly has affected so many, so many people.”
The partial government shutdown started Dec. 22 and continued more than a month. Federal workers have had to dip into their savings after not seeing a paycheck in 35 days. Many federal employees returned to work on Jan. 28, after 35 days of the partial federal government shutdown. However, if funds for a wall are not included in the next funding bill sent by Congress, Trump said he would have to consider shutting down the government again or using executive powers to call for a national emergency to get the structure built.
“Let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15th, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency. We will have great security.”
“It is to everyone’s benefit [that this end],” Katz said. “It is to everyone’s benefit to make certain that this never happens again.”
Before Trump temporarily ended the shutdown, county residents said it has been impacting the quality of their lives.
Alex Reese of Silver Spring took out a loan three weeks ago as a way to support his family over during the federal government’s partial shutdown. Throughout the shutdown, Reese has been working, but receiving no pay. As the father of two boys, Reese said he has expenses that can’t be put on hold. While he said he believes the shutdown will end “within a month,” Reese is concerned the repercussions will last far longer.
“I took out a loan to cover this paycheck. That’s a true statement,” said the analyst at the Department of Homeland Security. “It’s bad. Working for no pay and no promise of pay is bad.”
Reese was one of more than 600 people who attended a Jan. 11 “Shutdown Social: Potluck to Support Federal Workers,” at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, hosted by Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-5). At least 17 local companies provided chicken, sandwiches, salad, rice, drinks and desserts. County firefighters came with pizza to share with those affected by the shutdown.
Becky Krukar of Bowie, who was furloughed from her job with the Department of Food Safety, called the experience “rough,” adding, “I disagree with the border wall. I just wish they could agree” on how to work it out, she said of the federal politicians.
“If it goes on longer, I am going to feel angry,” said Krukar who has a son in high school and whose husband is a substitute teacher.
Jeff Quarrick, a cartographer with the Department of Commerce, called the experience “frustrating. It’s demoralizing. It’s nice to have a few days off, but you want to go back to work,” said the Silver Spring resident.
On Jan. 22, Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-4) urged President Donald J. Trump and House and Senate leadership to end the shutdown. She added that 18.2 percent of the federal workforce in the region resides in Montgomery County. Navarro wrote in her letter that federal employees have not been able to pay utility bills or for medication or buy food because of the partial shutdown.”
Reporter Suzanne Pollak contributed to this story.