I was a federal employee during the government shutdowns of 1995–96 and 2013 which resulted from conflicts between a Democratic President and Republican-controlled Congress. It is 2015, and here we are again. A federal agency and its employees are being subjected to Congress’ inability to pass a funding bill.
Last week, a House bill was re-filed to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through September 30 and reverse the President’s executive actions on immigration.
Democrats oppose the bill as it unravels the President’s immigration policies. Last week, on three separate occasions, Democrats successfully blocked the spending bill, and unless some of them change their vote when the bill comes up again after Congress returns from the President’s Day recess, the spending bill will fail a fourth time.
One democratic leader said that Republicans should stop holding the homeland security hostage and bring forth a clean, long-term funding bill. As a federal employee with two furloughs “under her belt,” I tend to agree.
Homeland security funding could run out on February 27, and approximately 230,000 DHS employees could have to go without pay. 15 percent of homeland security employees are deemed “essential” and will have to report to work anyway. During the 1995-1996 furlough, I was “essential;” during the 2013 furlough, I was “non-essential.” Either way, I did not get paid on time which is never a good thing.
Previously, I was an appropriations analyst, and regularly sat in on congressional appropriations hearings. I truly appreciate the work of our political leaders as they have a daunting task in deciding how 12 appropriations bills are passed year after year.
What I do not appreciate is during the last few weeks, there has been a lot of “buck passing.” I will not repeat the exact language that was used, but one political leader said that Democrats need to ” get off their seats” and approve the spending bill.
Even if Congress passes a short-term funding bill, over the next few months, Medicare, the Highway Trust Fund, the Patriot Act, and the debt ceiling will all present more funding issues.
As for homeland security funding, I am hopeful that a resolution will be reached as it is unsettling that the agency responsible for terrorism, port security, national disaster, and contagious diseases is “up in the air.”
Although I am “rank and file,” wouldn’t it just make more sense to remove the immigration language from the appropriations bill?
Repeatedly, the question is asked, “Who is at fault…Republicans or Democrats?” At this point, it really does not matter anymore. The bill should just be about funding homeland security.
Cynthia V White is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.