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By Julie Tsirkin

WASHINGTON — With more than 800,000 federal workers missing their first paychecks on Friday, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have said they will decline their pay or donate it to charity in solidarity with those affected by the partial government shutdown.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., is one of dozens of members of Congress who have refused pay since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, according to a NBC News count.

When asked by NBC News’ Hallie Jackson on Wednesday if he would be taking a paycheck during the current shutdown, Van Hollen said he wanted to be treated like any other government worker.

“I have instructed the Senate disbursing office to treat me like any other federal employee — at least the 800,000 who are not getting paid right now. So I will not be getting my pay during this period of government shutdown,” said Van Hollen.

At least fourteen of the lawmakers who are refusing or donating their pay are freshman members of Congress, including Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas.

He said in a tweet on Thursday that he, too, will forego his $174,000 salary until lawmakers can “come to an agreement to adequately fund border security.”

A number of lawmakers have said they’ll donate their salary to a worthy cause as long as workers remain without the paychecks.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a tweet that all his pay would go to Homes for the Brave, an organization aimed at aiding homeless veterans in Connecticut, while Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., said he would donate his pay to local and national veterans organizations. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, is donating to three food banks in her home state, while Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is giving to a National Guard foundation and a North Dakota homeless shelter, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and Congress are no closer to ending the stalemate over the funding he has demanded for his border wall. He has opposed legislation passed by the Democratic-held House to reopen the government temporarily, and the Senate’s Republican leadership has refused to consider any government funding legislation the president won’t sign.

However, Trump said that he would sign the legislation passed by Congress guaranteeing back pay to federal workers affected by the partial shutdown, which will set a record for the longest in American history early Saturday morning. The House passed the measure on Friday with overwhelming bipartisan support, 411 to 7, after it passed the Senate by unanimously by voice vote.

While several members of Congress have committed to refusing their pay until funding for nine essential government departments, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, is restored, the vast majority are continuing to draw their salaries.

Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., said he donated his entire paycheck during a past shutdown. But when asked by NBC News’ Hallie Jackson on Friday if he would do the same during the current shutdown, the congressman said it wouldn’t make a difference.

“Even if I do again what I did before, it’s not going to end the shutdown. The president can end the shutdown,” said Heck.

When asked if she would be taking a paycheck, Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., said on MSNBC on Tuesday, “I am, I’m working.”

Sen. John Thune’s office told NBC News on Friday that the majority whip would be accepting his paycheck, regardless of the ongoing shutdown. Other top Senate leadership — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill. — did not respond to requests for comment.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he will not be accepting pay during the partial government shutdown, while other House leaders — Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. — did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Senate leaders make $193,400 annually, compared to the average federal worker salary of $51,340 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 800,000 workers who are affected by this partial shutdown, roughly half are furloughed, or forbidden from working, while the rest were working with no guarantee of pay.

Darryl Floyd, a furloughed worker for the International Trade Commission, told NBC News on Friday that he is battling dual concerns: missing paychecks while paying for his wife’s cancer treatment.

“We kind of worry about the bills getting paid, if she’s going to be able to buy medicine or whatever it may be, will we be able to eat. So, it’s kind of stressful,” said Floyd.

Frank Thorp V and Alex Moe contributed.



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Top House Dem says new offer will focus on funding ‘smart wall’

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By Leigh Ann Caldwell, Kasie Hunt and Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — House Democrats are readying a funding counter-offer to President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans that would “meet or exceed” $5.7 billion for border security, but no money for a physical wall, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters Wednesday.

Thompson told reporters that the Democrats’ proposal will offer “no new structures. The only thing we’re talking about is existing structures. Some of them need repairing.”

The money could be used for “technology, manpower, fortifying ports of entry along with the judges and other things,” he added.

An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., confirmed that the proposal is in the works.

The offer may represent an attempt to compromise by offering the president the same amount he has requested for border security, but Democrats are still unwilling to compromise on the wall itself. House Democrats are planning to vote on their funding bills to reopen the government this week that would provide $1.5 billion in border security.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said Wednesday the $5.7 billion in border security technology funding in the offer would be a superior option to the physical wall the president has demanded.

“Walls are primitive — what we need to do is have border security,” Clyburn told reporters. “Use technology, use scanners, use x-ray equipment,”

Clyburn said that the U.S. government can now x-ray automobiles to determine whether they’re a threat to national security, it should use drones to help secure the border and should make coming through legal ports of entry an attractive option for asylum seekers.

“If you look at all the things that we are proposing, more judges, more border patrol, additional technology, these are the kinds of things that we are going to be putting forth,” Clyburn said. “And I think that they can be done using the figure that the president has put on the table, if his $5.7 billion is about border security, then we see ourselves fulfilling that request only doing it with what I like to call using a ‘smart wall.'”

Democrats still hold the position that the government should first be reopened immediately before negotiations take place over border security. At the same time, the counter-offer signals some movement on Capitol Hill on the 33rd day of the government shutdown.

Meanwhile, the Senate is planning to hold votes Thursday on two competing measures: the chamber will vote on Trump’s plan to reopen the government while providing $5.7 billion in border wall funding and temporary protections for people who were brought to the U.S illegally as children. And it will vote on a Democratic proposal to reopen the government that excludes funding for the wall altogether.



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