Shutdown: Congress shouldn’t get paid during standoff, Va. rep says

Government workers and their supporters hold signs during a protest in Boston, Friday, Jan.11, 2019. The workers rallied with Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and other supporters to urge that the Republican president put an end to the shutdown so they can get back to work. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Government workers and their supporters hold signs during a protest in Boston, Friday, Jan.11, 2019. The workers rallied with Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and other supporters to urge that the Republican president put an end to the shutdown so they can get back to work. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) (AP/Michael Dwyer)
The Capitol is seen at dawn on the 21st day of a partial government shutdown as an impasse continues between President Donald Trump and Democrats over funding his promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, in Washington, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Capitol is seen at dawn on the 21st day of a partial government shutdown as an impasse continues between President Donald Trump and Democrats over funding his promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, in Washington, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
On the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, federal employees rally at the Capitol to protest the impasse between Congress and President Donald Trump over his demand to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall, in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
On the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, federal employees rally at the Capitol to protest the impasse between Congress and President Donald Trump over his demand to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall, in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Charlie Powell stands outside one of the industrial sites at the 35th Avenue Superfund site in Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. The EPA has been removing contaminated soil from yards in the neighborhoods within the site. The partial government shutdown has forced suspension of federal work at the nation’s Superfund sites unless it is determined there is an “imminent threat” to life or property. (AP Photo/Kimberly Chandler)
Charlie Powell stands outside one of the industrial sites at the 35th Avenue Superfund site in Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. The EPA has been removing contaminated soil from yards in the neighborhoods within the site. The partial government shutdown has forced suspension of federal work at the nation’s Superfund sites unless it is determined there is an “imminent threat” to life or property. (AP Photo/Kimberly Chandler) (AP/Kimberly Chandler)
A worker walks through the empty lobby of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' National Center for Explosives Training and Research in Huntsville, Ala., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. About 70 federal agencies are located at the Army's sprawling Redstone Arsenal, and more than half the area economy is tied to Washington spending. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A worker walks through the empty lobby of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Center for Explosives Training and Research in Huntsville, Ala., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. About 70 federal agencies are located at the Army’s sprawling Redstone Arsenal, and more than half the area economy is tied to Washington spending. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (AP/David Goldman)
The Capitol and Washington Monument are seen at dawn as the partial government shutdown lurches into a third week with President Donald Trump standing firm in his border wall funding demands, in Washington, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. After no weekend breakthrough to end a prolonged shutdown, newly empowered House Democrats are planning to step up pressure on Trump and Republican lawmakers to reopen the government. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Capitol and Washington Monument are seen at dawn as the partial government shutdown lurches into a third week with President Donald Trump standing firm in his border wall funding demands, in Washington, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. After no weekend breakthrough to end a prolonged shutdown, newly empowered House Democrats are planning to step up pressure on Trump and Republican lawmakers to reopen the government. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Capitol and Washington Monument are seen at dawn as the partial government shutdown lurches into a third week with President Donald Trump standing firm in his border wall funding demands, in Washington, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. After no weekend breakthrough to end a prolonged shutdown, newly empowered House Democrats are planning to step up pressure on Trump and Republican lawmakers to reopen the government. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Capitol and Washington Monument are seen at dawn as the partial government shutdown lurches into a third week with President Donald Trump standing firm in his border wall funding demands, in Washington, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. After no weekend breakthrough to end a prolonged shutdown, newly empowered House Democrats are planning to step up pressure on Trump and Republican lawmakers to reopen the government. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Supporters of President Donald Trump wait outside the McAllen International Airport for Trump's visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Supporters of President Donald Trump wait outside the McAllen International Airport for Trump’s visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (AP/Eric Gay)
A Transportation Security Administration officer works at the entrance to Concourse G at Miami International Airport, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Miami. The airport is closing Terminal G this weekend as the federal government shutdown stretches toward a fourth week because security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport's normal rate. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
A Transportation Security Administration officer works at the entrance to Concourse G at Miami International Airport, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Miami. The airport is closing Terminal G this weekend as the federal government shutdown stretches toward a fourth week because security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport’s normal rate. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (AP/Lynne Sladky)
Passengers wait in line at Sun Country Airlines in Terminal G at Miami International Airport, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Miami. The airport is closing Terminal G this weekend as the federal government shutdown stretches toward a fourth week because security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport's normal rate. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Passengers wait in line at Sun Country Airlines in Terminal G at Miami International Airport, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Miami. The airport is closing Terminal G this weekend as the federal government shutdown stretches toward a fourth week because security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport’s normal rate. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (AP/Lynne Sladky)
IRS worker Angela Gran, center, and others participate in a federal workers protest rally outside the Federal Building, Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. Payday will come Friday without any checks for about 800,000 federal employees affected by the government shutdown, forcing workers to scale back spending, cancel trips, apply for unemployment benefits and take out loans to stay afloat. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
IRS worker Angela Gran, center, and others participate in a federal workers protest rally outside the Federal Building, Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. Payday will come Friday without any checks for about 800,000 federal employees affected by the government shutdown, forcing workers to scale back spending, cancel trips, apply for unemployment benefits and take out loans to stay afloat. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (AP/Rick Bowmer)
Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019, in Washington, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Construction crews install new border wall sections Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, seen from Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. President Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday — "I said bye-bye," he tweeted— as efforts to end the 19-day partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Construction crews install new border wall sections Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, seen from Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. President Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday — “I said bye-bye,” he tweeted — as efforts to end the 19-day partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (AP/Gregory Bull)
Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, are joined by furloughed federal workers at an event to discuss the impact on families from the partial government shutdown and President Donald Trump’s demands for funding a U.S.-Mexico border wall, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
A Marine stands by the door to the West Wing of the White House, Tuesday Jan. 8, 2019, in Washington, as television lights are at the ready a few hours before President Donald Trump is expected to make an address to the nation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A Marine stands by the door to the West Wing of the White House, Tuesday Jan. 8, 2019, in Washington, as television lights are at the ready a few hours before President Donald Trump is expected to make an address to the nation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Union members and Internal Revenue Service workers rally outside an IRS Service Center to call for an end to the partial government shutdown, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Union members and Internal Revenue Service workers rally outside an IRS Service Center to call for an end to the partial government shutdown, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (AP/John Minchillo)
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Government workers and their supporters hold signs during a protest in Boston, Friday, Jan.11, 2019. The workers rallied with Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and other supporters to urge that the Republican president put an end to the shutdown so they can get back to work. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
The Capitol is seen at dawn on the 21st day of a partial government shutdown as an impasse continues between President Donald Trump and Democrats over funding his promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, in Washington, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
On the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, federal employees rally at the Capitol to protest the impasse between Congress and President Donald Trump over his demand to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall, in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Charlie Powell stands outside one of the industrial sites at the 35th Avenue Superfund site in Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. The EPA has been removing contaminated soil from yards in the neighborhoods within the site. The partial government shutdown has forced suspension of federal work at the nation’s Superfund sites unless it is determined there is an “imminent threat” to life or property. (AP Photo/Kimberly Chandler)
A worker walks through the empty lobby of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' National Center for Explosives Training and Research in Huntsville, Ala., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. About 70 federal agencies are located at the Army's sprawling Redstone Arsenal, and more than half the area economy is tied to Washington spending. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
The Capitol and Washington Monument are seen at dawn as the partial government shutdown lurches into a third week with President Donald Trump standing firm in his border wall funding demands, in Washington, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. After no weekend breakthrough to end a prolonged shutdown, newly empowered House Democrats are planning to step up pressure on Trump and Republican lawmakers to reopen the government. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Capitol and Washington Monument are seen at dawn as the partial government shutdown lurches into a third week with President Donald Trump standing firm in his border wall funding demands, in Washington, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. After no weekend breakthrough to end a prolonged shutdown, newly empowered House Democrats are planning to step up pressure on Trump and Republican lawmakers to reopen the government. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Supporters of President Donald Trump wait outside the McAllen International Airport for Trump's visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A Transportation Security Administration officer works at the entrance to Concourse G at Miami International Airport, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Miami. The airport is closing Terminal G this weekend as the federal government shutdown stretches toward a fourth week because security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport's normal rate. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Passengers wait in line at Sun Country Airlines in Terminal G at Miami International Airport, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Miami. The airport is closing Terminal G this weekend as the federal government shutdown stretches toward a fourth week because security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport's normal rate. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
IRS worker Angela Gran, center, and others participate in a federal workers protest rally outside the Federal Building, Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. Payday will come Friday without any checks for about 800,000 federal employees affected by the government shutdown, forcing workers to scale back spending, cancel trips, apply for unemployment benefits and take out loans to stay afloat. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Donald Trump
Construction crews install new border wall sections Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, seen from Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. President Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday — "I said bye-bye," he tweeted— as efforts to end the 19-day partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer
A Marine stands by the door to the West Wing of the White House, Tuesday Jan. 8, 2019, in Washington, as television lights are at the ready a few hours before President Donald Trump is expected to make an address to the nation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Union members and Internal Revenue Service workers rally outside an IRS Service Center to call for an end to the partial government shutdown, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

WASHINGTON — As the government shutdown stretches into its 21st day — and is poised to become the longest in history while stranding 800,000 federal workers without pay — one Virginia representative tells WTOP that until Congress gets the job done and ends the three-week impasse, those politicians shouldn’t get paid either.

“It just seems like, to me, that reasonable people can get in a room together and find a place where there’s common ground,” U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican, told WTOP Friday morning.

Wittman said he’s advocated six years for a system wherein if Congress doesn’t agree on a budget, members don’t get paid.

“This is completely avoidable,” he told WTOP. “I believe Congress needs to pass ‘No Budget, No Pay.’ Get a budget done on time, when we should’ve done it, and if not, members of Congress shouldn’t get paid.”

“People have to do that … in everyday life. If you run a business, or in your relationships, people have to find common ground to get things done,” Wittman said. “I’m just disappointed that this isn’t the case.”

Battle on the Hill

The Democratic-controlled House has passed two bills to reopen parts of the government.

“The pressure is building and more people are signing on,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine told WTOP while visiting the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center.

“As you guys know, the House has passed both bills to reopen government. In the Senate, all 47 Democrats are on board and five Republicans have said ‘Let’s stop the foolishness and reopen government,'” Kaine said.

Kaine explained that with mounting concern, federal workers not being paid and Congress members hearing from constituents back home, the chance for a breakthrough is “high” — but not until next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has said he will not allow bills to reach the Senate floor for a vote unless he’s sure President Donald Trump will sign them.

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, urged McConnell on Thursday to allow a vote on a package of six spending bills the House passed shortly after Democrats regained control this month. He said the 800,000 federal workers who are either working without pay or who are furloughed deserve better.

“It’s like AT&T, Apple, Lockheed Martin, Google and Exxon Mobil laying off their entire workforce at one time,” Cardin said.

But McConnell called it a “political stunt” and said it would be useless to allow a vote that wouldn’t get Trump’s signature. The GOP lawmaker said simply, “This would not produce a result.”

Kaine is holding out hope that there is a way forward for Congress, even without the assurance of Trump-preapproved legislation.

“We’re the Article 1 branch, and as soon as enough senators say, ‘Hold on a second, we should reopen government, and then have the debate with the president about border security’ — I think that pressure will be strong,” he said. “And my prediction is this: Either we’ll bring the bill to the floor or Sen. McConnell will tell [the] president, ‘You’re losing Congress.'”

Kaine said that at that point, Trump may declare a national emergency, open government and then skirmish with Congress over using money the way he says he has the power to.

Back pay

The House passed a bill Friday that will ensure that federal workers get paid for the hours they put in during the government shutdown. Trump is expected to sign it.

The House also passed a bill to reopen the Interior Department, National Park Service and Smithsonian Museums — which Trump is expected to veto.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate Thursday night.

“It’s not the same as getting a paycheck, but we wanted to provide federal workers, at least, with the knowledge that they would be reimbursed for this time,” Kaine said.

The border wall

As of Friday, Trump appears to be edging closer to declaring a national emergency to fund his long-promised border wall.

Asked about the plight of those going without pay, the president shifted the focus, saying he felt bad “for people that have family members that have been killed” by criminals who came over the border.

Trump visited McAllen, Texas, and the Rio Grande on Thursday to highlight what he calls a crisis of drugs and crime. He said that “if for any reason we don’t get this going” — an agreement with House Democrats who have refused to approve the $5.7 billion he demands for the wall — “I will declare a national emergency.”

There is no evidence of an immigrant crime wave, though. Multiple studies from social scientists and the libertarian think tank Cato Institute have found that people in the U.S. illegally are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens are, and that those in the country legally are even less likely to do so.

Trump was consulting with White House attorneys and allies about using presidential emergency powers to take unilateral action to construct the wall over the objections of Congress. He claimed his lawyers told him the action would withstand legal scrutiny “100 percent.”

Such a move to bypass Congress’ constitutional control of the nation’s purse strings would spark certain legal challenges and bipartisan cries of executive overreach.

A congressional official said the White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to look for billions of dollars earmarked last year for disaster response for Puerto Rico and other areas that could be diverted to a border wall as part of the emergency declaration. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

‘Showdown politics’

Wittman wants to avoid “showdown politics” altogether.

“And we find ourselves here repeatedly, and all of this is avoidable if members of Congress suffer the consequences for not getting the job done,” he said. “I think that’s the way to totally avoid this.”

Wittman also said he stands with the 800,000 federal workers who won’t be getting paid Friday.

“I have asked from day one for my paycheck to be withheld, so I’m standing in solidarity with our federal workers,” he told WTOP. “I also have a bill in that says federal workers need to receive their back pay” when the shutdown ends.

Wittman believes in going a step further when it comes to withholding Congress’ pay as well — that the pay should be automatically stopped in a shutdown situation and should not be up to individual members to volunteer.

WTOP’s Mitchell Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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