President’s shutdown hurting NM

By:  U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich

New Mexico families are paying the price for the longest government shutdown in American history because President Trump refuses to stop holding our federal workers, our economy and basic government services hostage to his political gamesmanship.

Congress has taken the votes to pass a bipartisan solution to reopen the government immediately. In December, the Senate passed a unanimous compromise to keep the government open. The House has passed Republican-authored funding bills that would reopen our critical agencies. But President Trump said he is “proud” to shut the government down, and Republican leaders refuse to stand up to him.

New Mexico is one the most vulnerable states to the impacts of a shutdown because of our significant federal workforce and the importance of the federal government to our economy. Over 10,000 federal workers in our state are working for agencies that have been shut down – and the vast majority of them have been furloughed or are working without pay. Last week, the Senate passed a bill we co-sponsored guaranteeing federal employees be paid retroactively after the shutdown. But many workers were already living paycheck-to-paycheck before their first missed paycheck on Friday. Thousands of additional New Mexico families have also been affected and are scrambling to find ways to make their mortgage or rent payments or put food on the table.

For tribes across Indian Country, the shutdown’s consequences are particularly dire. Federal programs critical to health and public safety on tribal lands have ground to a halt, and lives are endangered. Without access to critical federal funds that should be guaranteed under treaty rights, tribal governments are now under great distress to meet many basic needs for their communities.

The shutdown has also shuttered the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which funds agricultural loans for farmers and ranchers and many economic development programs for rural communities. The shutdown has delayed food safety inspections that protect New Mexico families from potentially deadly food contamination. If the shutdown continues into the next months, more than half a million New Mexicans who rely on USDA’s SNAP benefits – or food stamps – will be left without this critical financial support that helps them feed their families.

Many of our state’s national parks and monuments – like Bandelier, Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands – remain closed or mostly shuttered. The impacts of reduced visitation and the costs of repairing damage accrued during the shutdown will hurt communities all across our state. Important work in our national forests that prevents more destructive wildfires has also been put on hold.

And as he talks about border security, the president is actually forcing the officers working at our southern ports of entry and agents along our border to either work with no pay or be furloughed. In addition, staff at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Artesia, the only training academy for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, are also furloughed or working without pay. And the shutdown is adding considerable stress to local law enforcement and local governments who are just working to protect their communities.

There is a time and place for debating the most effective way to secure our border. We support smart investments in border security and ports of entry that keep our communities safe and build a more prosperous nation. And we join New Mexico’s border communities in opposing the president’s border wall – a wall that would be wasteful and ineffective. But we need to separate that debate from one of our most basic constitutional responsibilities, to keep the government open and working for the American people.

New Mexicans shouldn’t have to pay for the president’s reckless decision to keep the government closed indefinitely. President Trump has the power to end all of this right now. We will keep doing everything within our power to re-open the government without delay and protect the workers and communities in New Mexico that have been hurt by the shutdown.