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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

One Week Down: Vt. Officials Weigh In On Ongoing Partial Federal Government Shutdown

Looking outward and upward at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. There are statues but really no people, as a partial shutdown is in effect.
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Associated Press
The U.S. Capitol Rotunda was empty on Dec. 24, in the midst of the ongoing partial government shutdown. VPR spoke to members of the congressional delegation and the Vermont secretary of the administration about the shutdown.

The partial federal government shutdown continues — and it looks like the shutdown will last into the new year.

At the center of the budget fight is funding for a border wall with Mexico. President Donald Trump has said he won't sign off on a budget if it doesn't include $5 billion for building the wall.

Vermont officials on the federal and state level have been following the situation:

The Congressional delegation

Since last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders hascriticized the president on Twitter multiple times regarding the shutdown.

On Sunday, Sanders tweeted: "This president’s erratic and impulsive behavior is a danger to our country and a major impediment in terms of addressing the crises we face. His decision to shut down the government is just the latest example of this destructive pattern."

FROM NPR — "Financially Struggling Government Workers Are Caught Up In Shutdown" [Dec. 28]

Sen. Patrick Leahy, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told VPR on Friday that he doesn't think the federal government will re-open before Jan. 3.

Trump has criticized Democrats for not being strong on border security, but according to Leahy that's not true.

“We vote every year for billions upon billions of dollars for border security,” he said. “But that is all kinds of security — that's everything from homeland security, border patrol [and] aerial surveillance.”

Rep. Peter Welch said Trump's threat to close down the Mexican border if Congress doesn't allocate money for the border wall could extend the partial shutdown of the federal government for many weeks.

And Welch told VPR that Trump's comments make a difficult situation even worse.

"The president's behavior is becoming increasingly erratic and unstable," Welch said. "There's an immense amount of legal and fully-regulated transport back and forth, so this would have devastating consequences on our trade and do real economic harm to lots of people not just living along the border but who depend on the free flow of goods between Mexico and the United States."

The Democrats will take over control of the U.S. House when the new session starts on Jan. 3. Welch said the first bill to be considered will re-open the federal government, but it's likely the president will veto that legislation if it doesn't include additional money for the wall.

The Scott administration

And how are things playing out on the state level?

Administration Secretary Susanne Young told VPR on Friday that the state of Vermont has taken steps to ensure there won't be a disruption of critical federal funds if the partial government shutdown continues for several months.

Young said agencies of state government have drawn down all of the federal money that's available to them and that key budget priorities can be maintained until late March or early April.

"So in terms of the cash flow in federal funds," Young said, "that may not be flowing into the state over the short term or a long-term shutdown, we are ... good to go operationally for, you know, three — up to four — months."

Young also said the federal Environmental Protection Agency has informed the state that most EPA employees will be furloughed for the duration of the shutdown and the state can have no contact with them until the budget impasse is over.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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