Government reopens for now: Federal workers catch breath and brace for uncertain future

Closing out the fifth week of the nation’s longest government shutdown, President Donald Trump announced on Jan. 25 that it would reopen — for now at least.

Trump signed a short-term spending bill into law, which does not include any of the proposed $5.7 billion of funding for his controversial Mexico–U.S. border wall plan, to fund the 25 percent of the government affected by the shutdown through Feb. 15. Lawmakers have three weeks to devise a bill that would placate Trump, otherwise the government will shutdown again until a compromise is reached or the president will declare a national emergency and order the Defense Department to construct the wall.

“Let me be very clear,” Trump said in his Friday speech. “We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier.”

Many are breathing a sigh of relief and celebrating the victory of the government’s reopening, even if it may only be temporary.

“After passing several House bills to reopen the government, I am relieved that the President has decided to end his shutdown and the suffering it has caused for our federal workers and their families,” said U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-4) in a public statement. “Now that this has come to an end, I am determined to ensure that it does not happen again. And I look forward to focusing on the many important issues that Americans sent us here to address.”

The approximate 800,000 federal workers, including the 45,000 or so in the Philadelphia region, affected by the partial government shutdown that started on Dec. 22 are not soon to forget the damage that has been done.

John Siciliano, a correctional officer (CO) at the Federal Detention Center who Philadelphia Weekly previously interviewed at a rally on Independence Mall earlier this month, said he is cautious about the next coming weeks.

“I’m so thankful it’s open, but I believe at the end of the three weeks it’s going to shut back down and we are preparing,” said Siciliano, a New Jersey resident. “Hopefully they can work a deal out, but I don’t believe so.”

Siciliano and his fellow mandated COs from Federal Detention Center were present at a federal workers rally at the Philadelphia International Airport on Friday before news broke of the government’s reopening.

CO Holly Washington, 40, said she was preparing to pull her youngest son out of daycare because she was unable to afford it. The Northeast Philly resident explained that not only did the shutdown create a financial strain on her family, but also added risks at the prison as a result of it being short staffed in an administrative facility holding nearly 1,000 inmates, all of whom were aware of the shutdown and its implications.

“All the inmates know. They watch the news, they know everything that is going on. They crack jokes,” said Washington at the rally. “The ones that are workers are still getting paid so that’s even more upsetting, the inmates are getting paid and we are not.”

The protest held by furloughed TSA workers and American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) labor union at the airport’s Terminal B showed a strong turnout of various federal departments and politicians, including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and U.S. Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-2) Chrissy Houlahan (D-6) and Dwight Evans (D-3) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-1).

{{tncms-inline account=”Senator Bob Casey” html=”<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>As the <a href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TrumpShutdown</a> enters its 35th day and hundreds of thousands of federal employees are set to miss their second paycheck, I’m standing with furloughed TSA workers and AFGE Reps at PHL airport to call for an end to the dysfunction. <a href=””>@senatemajldr</a>, <a href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CallTheVote</a> <a href=”″></a></p>&mdash; Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) <a href=””>January 25, 2019</a></blockquote>” id=”″ type=”twitter”}}

As furloughed employees are getting back to work, uncertainty still looms over what will happen in three weeks time. In addition, people brace for the impeding consequences of the last five weeks, including whether workers will get their tax returns on time due to the hard hits to the IRS.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181) was present at the midday rally and surmised to PW what he ascertains as the core of the shutdown.

“We are putting people’s lives at risks, quite frankly, and livelihoods at risks for a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for — it’s absurd,” said Kenyatta.


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