Government Shutdown: Tax refunds 'will go out,' White House says

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While a Trump administration official said tax returns will go out on time, a third week of government shutdown is making many non-essential federal employees very nervous.

A Trump administration official said income tax refunds for 2018 will go out on time during the partial government shutdown because rules will be changed to make funding available to pay them.

Russell Vought, acting director of the White House budget office, told reporters: "The refunds will go out as normal. There is an indefinite appropriation to pay tax refunds."

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As the shutdown lurched into a third week, many Republicans watched nervously from the sidelines as government disruptions hit the lives of ordinary Americans.

The IRS may recall a large number of furloughed employees to process returns - probably without pay - in accordance with its contingency plans. But with the shutdown in its third week, concern was growing that hundreds of billions of dollars in refunds would be delayed until the shutdown ends because funding for them wouldn't be available.

Vought said the administration is changing the customary rules "from past administrations."

WATCH: How the government shutdown impacts you
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Take a look at what is and what is not affected by the government shutdown.

With no breakthrough in sight to end the partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump plans a Tuesday night address to the nation and a Thursday visit the U.S.-Mexico border to highlight his demands for a border wall. Newly empowered House Democrats - and at least a few Republican senators - are stepping up pressure on Trump and GOP lawmakers to reopen the government.

Trump said he would discuss the "Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border" at 9 p.m. EST. He maintains that more than $5 billion for a wall is necessary to secure the border. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted Monday that Trump will use the visit to "meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis."

As the shutdown lurched into a third week, many Republicans watched nervously from the sidelines as hundreds of thousands of federal workers went without pay and government disruptions hit the lives of ordinary Americans.

Worried about paying the bills, some government workers are having a hard time understanding the partial shutdown since there was a bipartisan deal passed in December to keep the government open.

Trump has threatened to continue the shutdown for "a long time" if he doesn't get money for a border wall.

Valerie Jirsa has lived through government shutdowns before but the 32-year-old furloughed federal employee, once against at home in her Edgewater apartment, said this one feels different.

"This is the first time I've ever worried because there's no end in sight," she said.

Jirsa works as a paralegal at the Justice Department, and is considered a non-essential employee. Like so many federal workers she's been stuck at home watching and reading about any shutdown progress while worrying about her next paycheck.

"If I don't get paid this month it puts me in a bind for February, paying my mortgage and HOA fees," Jirsa said.

While Jirsa is home, TSA workers are considered essential and their next scheduled paycheck is Friday. If screeners are not paid, TSA is bracing for more workers to call in sick. While there has been an uptick of sick calls at other airports the shutdown, so far, has not affected O'Hare and Midway.

"I made sure to thank the TSA agents who are working and they said they are committed to their jobs, they are going to keep working," said U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

But Duckworth is concerned that may change if the shutdown drags on. She called on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring a vote on the same bill she and all her colleagues voted for in December before Trump decided not to sign it.

"I think this is up to the president. He has to decide how much he wants to harm the nation. I already voted for Republican bills, I'll vote for them again," she said.

The newly Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has already passed a bill to end the shutdown.

Duckworth said she would rather see some of the $5.7 billion Trump is demanding for the wall go towards more airport security.


Trump has offered to build the barrier with steel rather than concrete, billing that as a concession to Democrats' objections to a solid wall. They "don't like concrete, so we'll give them steel," he has said.

But the Democrats have made clear they see a wall as immoral and ineffective and prefer other types of border security funded at already agreed-upon levels.
White House officials affirmed Trump's funding request in a letter to Capitol Hill after a meeting Sunday with senior congressional aides led by Vice President Mike Pence at the White House complex yielded little progress. The letter from Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought sought funding for a "steel barrier on the Southwest border."

The White House said the letter, as well as details provided during the meeting, sought to answer Democrats' questions about the funding request. Democrats, though, said the administration still failed to provide a full budget of how it would spend the billions requested for the wall from Congress. Trump campaigned on a promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, but Mexico has refused.

The administration letter includes a request for $800 million for "urgent humanitarian needs," a reflection of the growing anxiety over migrants traveling to the border - which the White House said Democrats raised in the meetings. And it repeats some existing funding requests for detention beds and security officers, which have already been panned by Congress and would likely find resistance among House Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intends to begin passing individual bills to reopen agencies in the coming days, starting with the Treasury Department to ensure Americans receive their tax refunds. That effort is designed to squeeze Senate Republicans, some of whom are growing increasingly anxious about the extended shutdown.

Among the Republicans expressing concern was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should take up bills from the Democratic-led House.

"Let's get those reopened while the negotiations continue," Collins said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Adding to concerns, federal workers might miss this week's paychecks. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that if the shutdown continues into Tuesday, "then payroll will not go out as originally planned on Friday night."

Over the weekend, the federal agency tasked with guaranteeing U.S. airport security acknowledged an increase in the number of its employees calling off work. But Trump and the Department of Homeland Security pushed back on any suggestion that the call-outs represented a "sickout" that was having a significant effect on U.S. air travel.

At the White House, on Monday, spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp complained that Democratic leaders have yet to define what they mean when they say they are for enhancing border security.

"Democrats want to secure the border? Great. Come to the table," she said. "We are willing to come to a deal to reopen the government."

Trump reaffirmed that he would consider declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and spend money as he saw fit. Such a move would seem certain to draw legal challenges.

Incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said on ABC's "This Week" that the executive power has been used to build military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan but would likely be "wide open" to a court challenge for a border wall. Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff called the idea a "nonstarter."

Trump asserted that he could relate to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who aren't getting paid, though he acknowledged they will have to "make adjustments" to deal with the shutdown shortfall.

WLS-TV contributed to this report
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politicsgovernment shutdowndonald trumpmoneyjobsborder wallborder crisisimmigrationu.s. & worldWashington D.C.
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