York County, congressmen look toward another possible shutdown in two weeks

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

While Congress rushes to reach agreements on border security by Feb. 15 to prevent once again shutting down the federal government, York County officials and residents are having mixed feelings about the possibility.

The record 35-day shutdown ended Friday, Jan. 25, after President Donald Trump accepted Democrats' demands to open the government before continuing border funding negotiations, giving Congress three weeks to hash out a deal.

Trump has said he "doesn't want to go through another shutdown," but the administration hasn't ruled out the possibility if he doesn't receive his desired $5.7 billion in border wall funding.

More:York County Food Bank grapples with growing need amid shutdown

More:EDITORIAL: Trump, Pelosi and the shutdown shuffle

More:Government shutdown stalls new craft beers in York City

Losses from shutdown:The Congressional Budget Office reported the economy lost $11 billion during the shutdown — and roughly 800,000 federal workers missed two paychecks. Congress has since appointed a 17-member conference committee to help streamline negotiations, and the federal workers were expected to receive their back pay by the end of this week.

While the following York County agencies could have been hurt financially if the shutdown had lasted longer, they were left unscathed, said county spokesman Mark Walters:

  • York/Adams Drug & Alcohol Commission
  • Area Agency on Aging
  • Office of Children, Youth and Families
  • York/Adams HealthChoices Management Unit
  • York/Adams MH-IDD Program (Mental Health/Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities)
  • Youth Development Center

Walters said the county isn't that concerned about another potential shutdown as he "doesn't even know how long it would have to last" for it to affect the agencies.

The county is typically more concerned with budget impasses at the state level, he said, but one concern that is prevalent stems from the county's contract with Immigration Customs Enforcement.

The county receives monthly payments for its immigration facility in the York County Prison. ICE's December bill alone was roughly $2 million, so missed payments are a concern, Walters said.

"We don't want (another shutdown) to happen, but it's out of our control," Walters said. "If it does, we figure it'll work itself out at the higher levels of government."

Local businesses: However, local businesses and organizations were noticeably affected, and their concerns remain.

York City breweries, for example, took a hit as the shutdown ceased operations at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is in charge of approving labels on cans and bottles of alcoholic beverages. 

The impasse put a halt on getting label approval, which would again happen in the case of another shutdown.

The York County Food Bank also took on serving local federal workers during the shutdown, which is made more difficult during the winter months because there is a growing need for food, said spokesman Michael Fox.

"A lot of people don't have faith right now that something is going to be passed," Fox said. "If the government shuts down, it's a serious concern. A lot of families are going to be receiving back pay, but once they're out of work, they're back to the struggle."

Given that the food bank sees less food on the shelves during this time of year in addition to the possibility of another shutdown, Fox said the food bank will increasingly push for more food drives and donations.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., gives a victory speech during his election night party in Scranton, Pa., on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Jake Danna Stevens/The Times-Tribune via AP)

Worries in D.C.: The looming skepticism about successful negotiations on Capitol Hill was echoed by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., as he warned another shutdown isn't beyond the realm of possibility.

"There's no question it's possible they won't come to a consensus," Casey said. "It's also possible they'll come to a consensus and (Trump) rejects it for whatever reason. The president could take that worry off the table right now by not talking about a shutdown."

Casey, who has continuously blamed Trump for the shutdown and has supported up to $1.6 billion in border security funding in the past, also expressed concern with a statement Trump made Friday saying he'd declare a national emergency if his demands aren't met.

The Democrat has supported other methods to increase border security, such as improving border technology, focusing on ports of entry and more — all of which could come to be more or less than $5.7 billion, he said.

All local Republican congressmen agreed with Casey that border security involves other improvements such as staffing and technology, but they reiterated their support for physical barriers and pointed out Democrats have previously supported such measures.

Bill Jaffee, spokesman for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., reiterated that the senator — who didn't support opening the government before a deal on border funding —  is willing to negotiate on border wall funding.

"With negotiations now beginning, Sen. Toomey is hopeful Democrats will finally be willing to compromise," Jaffee said. "As he has said previously, it’s time to ‘end government by crisis’ so citizens and government employees do not bear the brunt of Washington’s dysfunction."

Legislation: Jaffee cited multiple pieces of legislation Toomey is supporting, one of which was introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and would ensure the pay of the 420,000 federal workers who are deemed essential during shutdowns.

Republican incumbent candidates Scott Perry, left, and Lloyd Smucker greet each other during an appearance by Vice President Mike Pence who rallied at the Lancaster Airport in Lititz Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

The other piece of legislation was introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and would prompt a continuing resolution in case of a budget impasse to keep the government open while gradually penalizing discretionary spending by 1 percent every 90 days.

Casey has said he supports the idea of such bills, but he's continued to keep his spotlight on the president's role in the shutdown.

Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, said he is glad the shutdown is over and hopes to not see another, adding he has his own legislation that would lessen the blow to federal workers if it were to happen again.

Earlier this month, he proposed legislation similar to Portman's, but it would put in place a more severe spending penalty — cutting 5 percent of discretionary spending immediately followed by an additional 2 percent each 60 days.

"No one wants our federal government to shut down, including me," Smucker said. "President Trump has shown he’s willing to negotiate with Democrats and opened up the government to do that."

His colleague in the House, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, echoed Smucker's support for the funding and called Trump's demands reasonable, adding he'd "evaluate any proposal that's made in good faith."

"These are reasonable requests, and I support them," Perry said. "If each side is willing to stop posturing for a few minutes and get down to what’s really important — like the safety and security of our nation — we can get back to work on policies that work.”  

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.