Government Shutdown 2019: Federal workers brace for no pay, Trump stalks out of meeting with Democrats

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- The ongoing government shutdown continued to grind on through its 19th day Wednesday, and first paychecks are about to be missed.

Environmental Protection Agency worker Cynthia Colquitt put away hand-washed dishes Wednesday afternoon; she's avoiding using her dishwasher to save money on her water bill. She's also cutting back on some of her dog's favorite food.

For the first time her 26 years as a federal employee, Colquitt will receive a partial paycheck this week and, if the government shutdown continues, no paycheck at all next week.

"I'm trying to take it one day at a time and figure it out," she said. "I'm trying to keep food in the house and make sure we do eat."

A single mom of an 18-year-old daughter, Colquitt lives paycheck to paycheck. She's never been late on a mortgage payment, and now worries about her credit if she can't pay her bills on time.

As President Donald Trump and Democrats continue to battle it out in Washington, Colquitt said the politics aren't important to her. Getting back to work, however, is.

"I can't understand why they are doing this and why this is still ongoing, but I know it's affecting normal people," Colquitt said.

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The ongoing government shutdown continued to grind on through its 19th day Wednesday, and first paychecks are about to be missed.

Farmers are feeling the effects of the shutdown too. Already hurting from a trade war with China, some farmers are not receiving the government support checks they were promised when tariffs caused them to lose soybean business.

John Kiefner was able to get his check, but the Will County farmer said with the USDA shut down business is at a standstill.

"Without the USDA offices open, we are lacking information. Vital export information. We don't know if the Chinese grain buyers have come back into the market," he said.

Kiefner said it's time for the government to get back to work.

"While they are fighting over the impasse and a border wall, it is detracting from other issues that are important to the U.S. government," said Kiefner.

The FAA released a statement responding to concerns about air traffic controllers not being paid during the shutdown, saying, "The traveling public can be assured that our nation's airspace system is safe. Air traffic controllers and the technicians who maintain the nation's airspace system continue to work without pay as they fill a critical mission to ensure the public's safety. We are allocating FAA resources based on risk assessment to meet all safety critical functions. We continue to proactively conduct risk assessment, and when we identify an issue we act and recall our inspectors and engineers, as appropriate, to address them"

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts also announced Wednesday that it will not be able to pay workers after January 18. If appropriation is not approved by Congress, or a continuing resolution is not passed, by that date the courts will be forced to operate under the Anti-Deficiency Act, in which criminal jury trials can continue but jurors will not be paid until budget appropriations are passed. Court employees will also be required to report to work but will not be paid until funding is restored.

"We are deeply concerned that the lack of appropriation will create delays in the Court's ability to ensure timely justice," said Chief Judge Ruben Castillo, Northern District of Illinois.

North Shore residents support Coast Guard working without pay
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In an effort to help federal workers who have been furloughed or who are working without pay, communities are reaching out.

In an effort to help federal workers who have been furloughed or who are working without pay, communities are reaching out. In north suburban Wilmette, the Coast Guard is on the minds of neighbors who want to help, though they can't, at least not yet.

"I just can't imagine the day-to-day anxiety for them," said Evanston resident Tamima Itani.

The Coast Guard team that protects Lake Michigan just a few miles from Itani's home are set to miss their first paychecks on Tuesday, January 15. Through the NextDoor social media app, she organized dozens who are ready to donate gift cards and food, but regulations prevent the Coast Guard and other federal workers from accepting them.

"How they are going to get through their mortgage, their medical care, or their daycare, or even feed themselves? This has bothered me quite a bit," she said.

The New Trier Township Food Pantry is ready to help as well, serving as a collection point for those who want to donate in what it called an "unprecedented situation."

"A ham dinner came with four sides so we would give a Coast Guard family one ham and then the four sides that go with it that came from a thing that Jewel does for us Christmas and Thanksgiving," said Brian Leverenz, community services administrator.

The pantry is stocked for whenever those who are in need are allowed to avail themselves.

"Clients they can fill up two bags and they can come once every two weeks," he said.

The Master Chief with the Coast Guard's Great Lakes Public Affairs Office said in a statement, "As public servants, we have a responsibility to ensure we operate within legal and ethical parameters. And so, any donations, while most appreciated, would have to be assessed at that time. The continued support means a great deal to our men and women."

"I have a lot of respect, I want to abide by their rules. I just hope that we can move forward and help them or that the shutdown ends - that would be the ideal situation for everybody," Itani said.

Trump stalks out of shutdown talks with Dems, says 'bye-bye'
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resident Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday.

President Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday - "I said bye-bye," he tweeted- as efforts to end the 19-day partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a negotiating session that was over almost as soon as it began, Democrats went to the White House asking Trump to reopen the government. Trump renewed his call for money for his signature campaign promise and was rebuffed. Republicans and Democrats had differing accounts of the brief exchange, but the result was clear: The partial shutdown continued with no end in sight.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will miss paychecks on Friday; a little more than half of them are still working without pay. Other key federal services are suspended, including some food inspections. And as some lawmakers expressed discomfort with the growing toll of the standoff, it was clear Wednesday that the wall was at the center.

Trump revived his threat to attempt to override Congress by declaring a national emergency to unleash Defense Department funding for the wall. He's due to visit the border Thursday to highlight what he declared in an Oval Office speech Tuesday night as a "crisis." Democrats say Trump is manufacturing the emergency to justify a political ploy.

That debate set the tone for Wednesday's sit-down at the White House.

Republicans said Trump posed a direct question to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: If he opened the government, would she fund the wall? She said no. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump slammed his hand on the table, said "then we have nothing to discuss" and walked out.

Republicans said Trump, who passed out candy at the start of the meeting, did not raise his voice and there was no table pounding. Pelosi said Trump "stomped" out of the room and was "petulant." Republicans said he was merely firm.

"The president made clear today that he is going to stand firm to achieve his priorities to build a wall - a steel barrier - at the southern border," Vice President Mike Pence told reporters afterward.

Trump had just returned from Capitol Hill, where he urged jittery congressional Republicans to hold firm with him. He suggested a deal for his border wall might be getting closer, but he also said the shutdown would last "whatever it takes."

He discussed the possibility of a sweeping immigration compromise with Democrats to protect some immigrants from deportation but provided no clear strategy or timeline for resolving the standoff, according to senators in the private session. He left the Republican lunch boasting of "a very, very unified party," but GOP senators are publicly uneasy as the standoff ripples across the lives of Americans and interrupts the economy.

Trump insisted at the White House: "I didn't want this fight." But it was his sudden rejection of a bipartisan spending bill late last month that blindsided leaders in Congress, including Republican allies, now seeking a resolution to the shutdown.

The effects are growing. The Food and Drug Administration says it isn't doing routine food inspections because of the partial federal shutdown, but checks of the riskiest foods are expected to resume next week.

The agency said it's working to bring back about 150 employees to inspect more potentially hazardous foods such as cheese, infant formula and produce. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency can't make the case that "a routine inspection of a Nabisco cracker facility" is necessary during the shutdown, however. He said inspections would have ramped up this week for the first time since the holidays, so the lapse in inspections of high-risk foods will not be significant if they resume soon.

Republicans are mindful of the growing toll on ordinary Americans, including disruptions in payments to farmers and trouble for home buyers who are seeking government-backed mortgage loans - "serious stuff," according to Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was among several senators who questioned Trump at the Capitol.

"I addressed the things that are very local to us - it's not just those who don't receive a federal paycheck perhaps on Friday, but there are other consequences," she said, mentioning the inability to certify weight scales for selling fish. The president's response? "He urged unity."

That unity was tested late Wednesday when the House passed a spending bill, 240-188, to reopen one shuttered department, Treasury, to ensure that tax refunds and other financial services continue. Eight Republicans joined Democrats in voting, defying the plea to stick with the White House.

Democrats said before the White House meeting that they would ask Trump to accept an earlier bipartisan bill to reopen the government with money for border security but not the wall. Pelosi warned that the effects of hundreds of thousands of lost paychecks would begin to ripple across the economy.

"The president could end the Trump shutdown and reopen the government today, and he should," Pelosi said.

Ahead of his visit to Capitol Hill, Trump renewed his notice that he might declare a national emergency and try to authorize the wall on his own if Congress won't approve the money he's asking.

"I think we might work a deal, and if we don't, I might go that route," he said.

Republicans are particularly concerned about such a threat, seeing that as an unprecedented claim on the right of Congress to allocate funding except in the direst circumstances.

"I prefer that we get this resolved the old-fashioned way," Thune said.

Trump did not mention the idea of a national emergency declaration Tuesday night. A person familiar with deliberations who was unauthorized to discuss the situation said additional "creative options" were being considered, including shifting money from other accounts or tapping other executive authorities for the wall.

Trump on Wednesday floated ideas for a broader immigration overhaul. Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has suggested a compromise that would include wall funding as well as protecting some immigrants - young "Dreamers" and those in Temporary Protective Status, two programs Trump is eliminating - from deportation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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