Alaska Public Media: A functioning government or border security? Murkowski wants both

Like most Republicans in Congress, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young are sticking with President Trump, who says he’ll let the partial government shutdown continue until he gets money to build a wall, or a steel barrier, on the southern border. But Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Friday she’s pulled in two directions. 

“I’ve got a lot of people who are saying ‘Lisa, you’ve got to stand with the president. You’ve got to stand strong on this. Because we need to have border security,'” she said in a sometimes passionate speech on the Senate floor. “And then I have an equal number that are saying, ‘Please, please, do something to help reopen this government. We expect it of you. We need it from you.” 

True to her moderate reputation, Murkowski wants both. She’s now pushing for temporary legislation known as a “continuing resolution” to re-open the unfunded government departments. 

She’s not a fan of the kind of wall Trump talked about on the campaign trail, but Murkowski said she also wants better border security. She’s calling for a Senate hearing to consider the president’s border proposal. 

“Maybe we can get a short-term reprieve. Let’s do a short-term CR, to allow us to process this,” she said. “But let’s not keep the government shut down while we do this.” 

She’s also co-sponsored a perennial bill to automatically impose a continuing resolution whenever Congress fails to pass one or more spending bills. That would eliminate future shutdowns. 

But not everyone’s a fan. Sullivan has a different approach. He said this week there’s no point discussing legislation the president won’t sign. He’s been working on a bill to ensure the Coast Guard is paid during a shutdown. 

Meanwhile, around the country, federal workers are getting pay stubs showing they’ve been paid a big fat zero. Or, even more strangely, pocket change. 

“I think the most I saw was about 11 bucks. Or one of my reps got $2.61,” said Clinten Lancaster, an air traffic controller in Anchorage and an Alaska leader of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. He said the tiny payments were a mystery to him, but most of his colleagues got zero. Both houses of Congress have now passed a bill guaranteeing furloughed workers will get back-pay, after the shutdown ends. 

“Thanks, but what are we going to do until then?” Lancaster said. 

Lancaster said most lenders and landlords have been flexible but he wonders if that generosity will last as long as the shutdown does.

By:  Liz Ruskin
Source: Alaska Public Media