Out of office: Government shutdown disrupts operations

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SHERIDAN — The ongoing federal government shutdown will disrupt the operations of several key agencies and recreational sites throughout Wyoming.

Funding for several federal agencies expired over the weekend and Congress will have to pass a new budget to restore funding to those agencies in the coming year.

Congress has come to a partisan impasse over funding for a border wall, which President Donald Trump and many Republicans insist should be included in the next federal budget while Democrats are pushing a budget that omits funding for the wall, but includes funding for border security.

Wyoming’s congressional delegation has backed the president’s request. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, voted for a budget bill that included funding for a border wall and the state’s sole U.S. House member, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, identified funding for a border wall as one of her chief priorities for her next term during her recent re-election campaign.

Republicans currently have a majority in both the House and the Senate but if the shutdown stretches into the new year, a Democratic majority will take over in the U.S. House after the representatives elected during last month’s midterm elections are sworn in.

The scope of the latest shutdown is limited compared to the three-day shutdown that occurred at the start of this year.

While Congress has approved funding for roughly 75 percent of federal agencies, some major sectors — particularly for Wyoming — remain unfunded. Those include the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation.

Workers deemed to be essential within those agencies will continue to work through the shutdown; Transportation Security Administration officers will continue screening airline passengers through the shutdown, for instance, though their paychecks will be delayed until after it is resolved.

Wyoming is home to 4,997 federal employees, per the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The Department of the Interior — which includes agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs — employs the most workers in Wyoming, with 2,034. The U.S. Forest Service, which falls under the Department of Agriculture, will also face disruptions. A message on the U.S. Forest Service Bighorn National Forest website warns that updates from the agency will be limited until funding is restored.

Exactly how many of those workers will be deemed essential is unclear.

The state’s national parks will remain open, but sparsely staffed. As a result, many facilities, including public bathrooms, will be closed.

Some of the state’s national monuments, like Devil’s Tower, will close entirely for the duration of the shutdown.

Congress is scheduled to reconvene and continue negotiations Thursday.

By |Dec. 26, 2018|

About the Author:

Michael Illiano joined The Sheridan Press as a government and politics reporter in February 2018. He is originally from New Jersey and graduated from Boston University. Email him at michael.illiano@thesheridanpress.com.

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