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By Phil McCausland

Jeff Estes has worked as a federal contractor for 35 years in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Now he and his colleagues are out of work because of a partial government shutdown that as of Saturday became the longest in American history.

For Estes, a union official and electrician, the shutdown is becoming particularly burdensome because he’s paying for his two kids to attend college, and the government’s recent decision to change contractors forced him and his coworkers to reapply for their jobs.

With much of the government at a standstill, Estes and his colleagues aren’t sure whether they will still have a job when it’s over, he said. Those in a position to know are furloughed, leaving Estes and many others more than frustrated as the government shutdown enters its 22nd day on Saturday.

“It’s not a D problem. It’s not an R problem. It’s Washington, D.C., the Beltway,” Estes told NBC News. “People in America and the workforce should not be used as pawns. Deal with your business without putting me out of the job. Do your job, and I’ll keep doing mine.”

Approximately 800,000 federal employees are estimated to be furloughed or working without pay because President Donald Trump and Congress cannot reach a deal to reopen the government. They are at an impasse over $5.7 billion for construction of a wall along the southern border.

The number of furloughed employees does not include federal contractors like Estes. It’s unclear how many contract or grant employees are affected by the shutdown — or even how many there are in total — but a Volcker Alliance report estimated that nearly 5.3 million worked as contractors in 2015.

Unlike furloughed federal employees, who have received assurances that they will be paid once the shutdown ends, contractors are not owed back pay. That has left them in an even murkier economic position.

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

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Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

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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Gibraltar Brexit row: EU will ‘ALWAYS side with Spain’ leaked document reveals

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