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The General Grant National Monument in New York closed due to the partial government shutdown © Reuters / Shannon Stapleton
The government has been partially shut down for over three weeks, during which around 400,000 federal workers have missed their first paycheck of 2019. Despite several rounds of negotiations, Trump and Congressional Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have failed to reach a compromise on Trump’s request for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the Mexican border.
Among those going without pay are the 42,000 active duty members of the Coast Guard, who missed their mid-monthly paycheck on Tuesday, the first time in the nation’s history that a branch of the armed forces has gone unpaid. Over 20 government agencies have shut their doors, as have federally funded museums, national parks, and zoos.
While the Senate passed a bill before Christmas guaranteeing backpay to all furloughed workers, those workers will only be paid once the government reopens, and a resolution currently seems a long way off.
But not everyone is tightening their belts. The Department of Defense is still funded, as is Customs and Border Patrol, the US Postal Service, and three quarters of all government departments and agencies.
Lawmakers themselves needn’t worry either. All 435 Representatives and 100 Senators are still entitled to their pay, even those Democrats Trump attacked for jetting off on a fact-finding trip to sunny Puerto Rico. The 16 officers and officials on the hill – from the sergeants at arms to the chaplains – will also stay warm and fed during the shutdown.
Congressmen and Senators take home $174,000 per year. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi is the highest paid lawmaker on Capitol Hill, bringing home $223,500 per year.
Accepting that pay or not, however, has become a partisan issue in itself. More than 70 members of Congress have said they will either ask for their pay to be withheld, or donate it to charitable causes.
Texas Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw tweeted that he “cannot in good conscience get paid,” in a post urging Democrats to support Trump’s planned border wall.
Massachusetts Senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren (D) opted to donate her salary to a charity that helps refugees. Ten of the 13 Senators refusing pay have donated their checks to charity.
Newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) declared at the beginning of the shutdown that lawmakers should “have some integrity” and forego their salaries, yet continued to take her own salary. When pressed on this by a New York Post reporter earlier this month, the self-described Democratic Socialist told the reporter “I’ve gotta run,” before cutting the impromptu interview short.
Neither Pelosi nor Schumer, who are leading the Democratic party through shutdown negotiations, have refused or donated their paychecks. Trump is still receiving his $400,000 salary, but has been donating his pay to charities and government initiatives since the start of his presidency.
Most American voters share Trump’s opinion that there is a “crisis” at the country’s southern border, according to a poll released on Monday. 55 percent of voters are opposed to a border wall, however. As the shutdown drags on, Trump’s approval rating has fallen to 43 percent, its lowest point since January 2018 and down from 50 percent last month.