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Government Shutdown
February 6, 2019

The government shutdown ended almost two weeks ago, but there are plenty of workers still waiting to receive their back pay, and many are worried that another shutdown might be around the corner.

People working for a variety of agencies either have not yet been paid, The Associated Press reports, or they've just received a small portion of what they are owed. Doug Church of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said people who worked during the shutdown have not received their overtime pay, which violates the Fair Labor Standards Act. Donna Zelina's husband works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in South Dakota, and she told AP he's been given only part of his back pay, and doesn't expect to be fully paid for another week. Her creditors wouldn't work with her during the shutdown, she said, adding, "I don't think people really understand what people do in government and just assume that everybody ... makes millions of dollars."

Contract workers were hit hard by the shutdown, as they are not entitled to back pay. John Kelly, vice president of government affairs and public policy for the nonprofit SourceAmerica, says his group has helped find government contract jobs for about 2,000 people with disabilities. Many worked as custodians and in mail rooms, and had a difficult time finding jobs in the first place. Kelly said that as of Wednesday, close to 60 percent still have not been called back to work.

The Census Bureau told AP that about 850 employees have not received back pay yet, and the Interior Department would only say a "small group of employees" are still waiting for their checks. A spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget told AP an "overwhelming majority of employees received their pay by Jan. 31." He did not answer questions about how many government workers are still waiting to be paid. Catherine Garcia

January 25, 2019

At least 14,000 unpaid Internal Revenue Service workers did not report to work this week, despite receiving an order from the Trump administration to do so as tax filing season looms, The Washington Post reports.

The employees who failed to show up to work were part of the division that includes tax processing and call centers, per the Post. The call centers, which answer taxpayer questions on the phone, were only answering 35 percent of calls. The IRS hopes to answer 80 percent during filing season, the Post reports.

More than 30,000 IRS employees have been ordered to come back to work unpaid. The processing division is set to miss their second straight paycheck this week, and some employees have said they are now unable to get to work or pay for childcare, per the Post.

The IRS called back around 60 percent of its furloughed workers earlier this month after the White House announced that the agency would still send out tax returns if the shutdown continued. Tax filing season officially begins on Jan. 28. Marianne Dodson

January 23, 2019

White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has asked agency leaders to send him a list, due no later than Friday, of the programs that would suffer most if the government shutdown continues into March or April, people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

This is the first known White House request for information about how the shutdown is affecting agencies, the Post notes, and it suggests the Trump administration doesn't expect it to end anytime soon. Because of the shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history, 800,000 government employees have missed a paycheck, and if things stay the way they are, they'll miss a second one in a few days.

The White House has mostly focused on how the shutdown is affecting wait times at airport security, not federal programs being interrupted, the Post reports. There's a lot to start worrying about: After Feb. 1, major operations within the federal court system will likely come to a standstill, and the Department of Agriculture does not have enough money to distribute food stamp benefits to about 40 million people in March. On Wednesday, the U.S. General Services Administration, which manages leases and contracts, told several departments that if the shutdown goes into February, there is no plan on how to pay utility bills and lease payments next month. Catherine Garcia

January 17, 2019

In front of the cameras, President Trump is adamant about standing firm and not bending to Democrats in order to end the government shutdown, but behind the scenes, he's not so steadfast, The New York Times reports.

While watching news coverage of the shutdown recently, Trump turned to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, clearly heated. A person with knowledge of the conversation told the Times that Trump said: "We are getting crushed! Why can't we get a deal?" Trump has been telling aides that he thinks Americans are going to forget all about the shutdown — entering its 27th day on Thursday, it's the longest in U.S. history — and will instead remember that he demanded money for a southern border wall.

As Trump deals with the shutdown — his poll numbers dropping, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asking him to reschedule or drop the State of the Union address, and other debacles — Mulvaney is figuring out his new role in the White House. Before becoming acting chief of staff on Jan. 3, Mulvaney led the Office of Management and Budget and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So far, he's taking a less rigid approach than his predecessor, John Kelly. He's not limiting access to Trump or demanding he sign off on everything, the Times reports, telling staffers during a meeting, "You're all adults." Read more about how Mulvaney is tackling his new role, and how he's dealing with an ever-present Jared Kushner, at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

January 15, 2019

Should the government shutdown still be in effect on Jan. 28 when tax filing season begins, the Internal Revenue Service will recall 46,000 furloughed employees, nearly 60 percent of the workforce, to handle tax returns and refunds.

The employees will not be paid. Last week, the Trump administration said it would go against precedent and still process tax refunds, despite the shutdown. The IRS on Tuesday said refund money will be drawn from a "permanent, indefinite refund appropriation" that can be accessed even in the midst of a shutdown, Politico reports.

The IRS will not be conducting audits or accepting applications by organizations for tax-exempt status, and a limited number of employees will be available to answer telephones. Tony Reardon, head of the National Treasury Employees Union, told Politico he is concerned that highly trained IRS employees who are forced to work without pay will leave the agency. "Who will replace these employees after seeing how poorly they are treated by the federal government as their employer?" he asked. Catherine Garcia

January 11, 2019

On Thursday, the House passed two bills to fund the shuttered Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, and House and Urban Development (HUD) for the rest of the fiscal year, once again providing no funding for President Trump's border wall. Twelve Republicans joined the Democrats in voting for the Transportation-HUD bill, which passed 244-180, while 10 bucked the White House to reopen the Agriculture Department and ensure funding for food stamps. On Wednesday, eight Republicans voted for a clean bill to reopen the Treasury Department and IRS, and the week before, measures to reopen all departments but Homeland Security (DHS) got seven GOP votes and a wall-less DHS funding bill drew five GOP votes.

The steady uptick in Republicans breaking with Trump suggests "that pressure is mounting on the GOP to do something to end the 20-day stalemate," Axios says. But pressure only goes so far. Earlier Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked Senate votes on last week's House bills to reopen the government, calling the Democratic maneuver "absolutely pointless show votes." Democrats pointed out that the Senate overwhelmingly passed nearly identical bills in December, before Trump said he'd veto any bill without wall funding. Peter Weber

January 10, 2019

The House voted 240 to 188 on Wednesday evening to reopen the Treasury Department and keep the Internal Revenue Service and Small Business Administration funded. Eight Republicans joined the Democrats in backing the measure, breaking with President Trump and GOP congressional leadership. The measure, like similar ones approved last week, is not expected to get a hearing in the GOP-led Senate.

After meeting with Senate Republicans earlier Wednesday, Trump said his party is "totally unified" in keeping the government partially shuttered unless Democrats agree to fund Trump's border wall. "There was no discussion of anything other than solidarity," he said. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one of a handful of Senate Republicans who favor reopening the government before negotiating border security, said she warned Trump that the shutdown has consequences. Peter Weber

January 8, 2019

No one is "winning" the fight over President Trump's border wall and the partial government shutdown it sparked, but Trump is losing, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday ahead of Trump's Oval Office address. A 51 percent majority of American adults say Trump "deserves most of the blame" for the shutdown, up 4 percentage points from the previous poll, conducted right before Christmas. Another 32 percent place most of the blame with congressional Democrats and 7 percent mostly fault congressional Republicans — largely unchanged from the last poll.

And the wall itself is increasingly unpopular, except among Republicans, the poll found. Overall, 41 percent of Americans support more border fencing — a drop of 12 points from a similar poll an early 2015, before Trump made it central to his campaign — and 35 percent support a congressional spending bill that funds Trump's wall. Only 25 percent back Trump's decision to shut down parts of the government until Congress appropriates his nearly $6 billion down payment on the wall. Among Republicans, 77 percent said they want additional fencing and 54 percent backed Trump's negotiating position.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted in English Jan. 1-7 among 2,203 U.S. adults, and it has a credibility interval of 2 percentage points. Peter Weber

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