*UPDATE: The Senate failed to advance either of the proposals outlined below. On January, 24, the Shelby proposal that including the President’s $5.7 billion for a border wall failed in the Senate by a vote of 50-47. The Schumer proposal, the clean CR, failed by a vote of 52-44. Both bills needed 60 votes to advance in the Senate. Advocates may continue to use the call-in number to urge members of Congress to end the shutdown.
As you have probably heard, the Senate is poised to hold two votes on proposals to end the shutdown.
- The Shelby proposal: reopens the government and includes the $5.7 billion for construction of a southern border wall. In addition, this proposal contains long-term, harmful changes to the asylum system, as well as some narrow, temporary protections for DREAMers and TPS recipients.
- The Schumer proposal: reopens the government temporarily until Feb. 8, in a clean Continuing Resolution (CR) for the unfinished appropriations bills.
The Shelby proposal, released on Monday evening, is unacceptable. It is not a compromise. When the partial government shutdown began, at issue was the President’s request of $5.7 billion to build a wall along the southern border. While the bill makes no concession on the $5.7 billion price tag, it goes further by including stringent new rules that fundamentally change the United States’ asylum system. In exchange, this proposal offers a three-year pause on the administration’s efforts to dismantle DACA, the program designed to normalize the immigration status of 700,000 young people, known as DREAMers, who were brought to the U.S. as small children. It also provides temporary relief for some TPS (Temporary Protected Status) recipients.
By contrast, the Schumer proposal is what is known as a clean Continuing Resolution (CR). It would immediately put the U.S. government back to work and allow for two weeks of negotiations. It provides level funding for the agencies affected by the shutdown, until February 8.
Call your Senators today and tell them to vote for a clean CR!
Please call 888-897-9753 to reach the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be connected with your Senator’s office. Then call back and ask for the other Senator. If you don’t know who your Senators are, click here. Or you can email your Senators here.
Putting federal workers back to work should not be a partisan issue. The federal workforce is not a bargaining chip. This nation’s immigrant community is not a bargaining chip. Those who are receiving federal assistance to prevent hunger, homelessness, and other hardships are not bargaining chips. Using the lives of real people to create political leverage is sinful. It is time to put the government back to work.
The importance of reopening the government immediately cannot be emphasized enough. As the partial government shutdown, now the longest in the nation’s history, stretches into its second month, the long-term economic impacts are being felt, not only in households directly affected by the furlough of 800,000 federal workers (including TSA agents, air traffic controllers, border agents, federal prison guards, Coast Guard members, federal court employees, scientists, food inspectors, and thousands of other civil servants), but also more broadly across the economy. Despite assurances that federal workers themselves will receive back pay for their furloughed time, contract workers, people who own businesses that thrive on the patronage of federal workers (eg. small restaurants, food trucks, taxis, Lyft/Uber drivers, child care workers, etc.), and others whose livelihoods are dependent upon federal government partnership, permitting, or regulation, will receive no such benefit and feel the long-term impacts of this economic slowdown.
Further, people who rely on services provided by the federal government, including recipients of SNAP, WIC, and other programs designed to alleviate hunger, as well as people waiting to receive their new housing voucher, healthcare through the Indian healthcare service, etc. are all experiencing very real need and very understandable anxiety, whose lasting effects will reach far beyond the actual government shutdown.
The most obvious solution to the shutdown is for Congress immediately to pass bills to reopen the government and for President Trump to sign them. Only after re-opening the government and putting its workers back to work, can political leaders approach the negotiating table in good faith and reach compromise. Members of Congress and the President have a lot of work to do around immigration reform and the way the best ways to improve our system, but using vulnerable members of our community as leverage in a political game cannot be tolerated.
A fundamental feature of United States government is the system of checks and balances provided by coequal branches of government. The executive branch does not have the sole power to enact policies; rather, the executive must work with the legislature to obtain consent and legislative action in both chambers of Congress. In its most basic conception, the role of the legislative branch is to create law while the role of the executive branch is to enact and enforce law. And for good measure, but legislature and executive are subject to the ruling of the judiciary, which may deem a law or its enforcement unconstitutional.
Despite the political banter over the southern border and talk of a crisis there, the real crux of the crisis in Washington is the balance of power. The current executive wishes to implement policy that the legislature has declined to enact. The federal workforce and all of the rippling economic, social, and emotional effects of this shutdown are an effort to build leverage and force Congress into taking action that it has otherwise declined to take. From a civics perspective, the government shutdown is an effort to circumvent the checks and balances designed to prevent too much power concentrating in one branch of government. It is an abuse of power.
The PC(USA) General Assembly Policy
On Immigration Reform:
The PC(USA) General Assembly has repeatedly called upon the U.S. Congress to take a more comprehensive approach to border security and immigration policy. In particular the 220thGeneral Assembly (2012) called for comprehensive immigration reform that “create[s] legal avenues for people to enter the U.S.; allow[s] people already here to earn the opportunity to adjust their status; address[es] the multiyear backlogs in family and employment based immigration; and create[s] and implement[s] a smart border security and enforcement regime that respects core principles of due process.” The same Assembly further called on the U.S. government—
- to make family unity a priority in its immigration policies (no family separation)
- to establish minimum standards of care for detainees that include medical treatment standards and increased access to pastoral care, legal counsel, and legal orientation programs,
- to expedite the release of individuals who pose no risk to the community and expand the use of community-based alternatives to detention that are more humane and cost-effective
- and to enact the DREAM Act, so that young people might work, attend school, and seek to regularize their immigration status without fear
On Good Government:
The 223rdGeneral Assembly (2018) approved a Resolution on Honest Patriotism:
Just as the ancient Hebrew prophets stood up to kings and queens, so have Christians understood the prophetic calling to entail a moral freedom to challenge the misuses of power, even within the church or state themselves, “in season and out of season.” Honest Patriotism is thus a check on the exclusivist nationalism that otherwise denies equal respect to other peoples, conceals injustices committed by one’s own side in any conflict, and makes reconciliation and common action harder to achieve both in the United States and abroad…
We affirm and honor the work of citizens of the United States who have chosen public service as part of their vocation. This includes, but is not limited to, civil service employees, members of the judiciary, and our elected representatives in the Legislative and Executive branches of our national government. Public employees of local and state governments also serve the common good. We further affirm, as part of our Reformed tradition, that their work is part of God’s design for the governance of creation…
These affirmations draw on a long tradition of Reformed involvement in the political arena. We are cognizant that we live in a time and place where it is incumbent upon us to speak boldly. We also know that we speak along with a great cloud of witnesses who have come before us. Nothing that we affirm here is wholly new, in the sense that our tradition has always viewed the faithful guardianship and exercise of our rights as citizens to be central to our mission.
The issues we address here have been the subject of the social witness policy of our denomination for generations. The 195th General Assembly (1983) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted the report, Reformed Faith in Politics. Claiming that we are “inevitably political and religious,”… [iterates] our commitment to good government and “[a]ffirm[s] responsible participation in politics as an indispensable part of the calling of all Christians.”