GRAND FORKS — As the shutdown officially becomes the longest in history, the region’s lawmakers mirror the stalemate happening in Washington.
Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, both Democrats, are vocal about their hopes to reopen the government without providing funding for a border wall, while Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, both Republicans, have reaffirmed President Donald Trump’s call for increased border security.
The shutdown stems from a number of appropriations bills not signed into law by the president before they expired. While most agencies are funded, roughly a quarter were operating on short-term resolutions that have now expired, leaving some programs and functions in limbo.
Trump wants over $5 billion in funding for increased border security, which would include building a wall along the southern border, before he is willing to end the shutdown.
The shutdown has furloughed nearly 400,000 federal employees across the nation and nearly as many are forced to continue working without paychecks, but with a promise of back pay.
Among the essential workforce preparing to enter into the fourth week without pay are TSA employees and border patrol agents.
Friday marked the first missed paycheck for federal employees, although it also marked the close of the shutdown’s third week.
A Washington Post analysis estimates about 2,400 North Dakotans are impacted by the shutdown throughout the Interior, Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments. The study shows about 500-1,000 employees in the state are impacted per about 100,000 workers. The analysis estimates about 6,100 Minnesotans are affected mainly within the Agriculture, Transportation and Interior agencies. Throughout the state, this accounts for up to 250 employees impacted per 100,000 workers.
‘North Dakotans want the wall’
Sunday marks the 22nd day of government shutdown, one day longer than the previous record, which occurred during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
While politicians haven’t agreed on a solution, they do agree that extreme polarization among both parties has made negotiations tense and fruitless so far.
Cramer said “a vast majority of North Dakotans want the wall.” He placed blame on the Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the ongoing stalemate because he feels they have been inflexible in negotiations.
Cramer said he’s unsure about when a compromise might be reached, but said he suspects Trump may declare a national emergency to fund border security. If he were to declare a national emergency, the border wall could be built without congressional approval, but the order may be subject to legal challenges.
Hoeven was hopeful Wednesday the shutdown would conclude by the end of the week. He said impacts of the shutdown have “so far been pretty well managed.” He said lawmakers are working to mitigate harm as negotiations are ongoing.
Hoeven said border security extends beyond just the wall and the funding would help address a growing humanitarian crisis related to undocumented immigration.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said the “immigration system has been broken for a long time.” He said both parties can see there are problems within the system and changes could benefit and improve the legal immigration system, also.
‘Shutdown is a waste’
In Minnesota, Democratic lawmakers see things differently.
Klobuchar called for an end to the shutdown Tuesday after Trump addressed the nation in a live White House address. Trump requested $5.7 billion, which would help fund a steel wall he claims will be indirectly paid for by Mexico as part of a trade agreement that has not yet been signed.
“There is a lot that the president didn’t talk about tonight,” she said in a statement. “The TSA agents I’ve met at the airport, the people calling my office who are scared about getting their mortgage, the farmers and small businesses not able to access important loans. The House just passed bills to end this shutdown and we already have the votes in the Senate to pass them -- we must vote to reopen the government and get back to work.”
Smith expressed her distaste for the shutdown on Twitter.
“This shutdown is a waste & increasingly harmful,” she tweeted Wednesday. “We need to reopen the government. I stand in solidarity with the 1000s of workers and contractors going without pay.”
Trump previously told national media outlets he plans to continue the shutdown for weeks or months until he’s able to secure the full funding requested for border security. Several talks between the president and leaders in the House and Senate ended in stalemate throughout the week.
Area officials say they recognize the impact a prolonged shutdown may have on the country and local communities and are hoping for a solution soon.
“As soon as the government reopens, help is on the way so to speak, but time matters,” Cramer said. “Time costs money, too. You can’t purchase things with a promise — you either have money or credit. The good thing is the money is coming, but again, there is urgency to all of it.”