Trump temper tantrum risks government shutdown, 600K jobs, raises for 2M
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence meet with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in the Oval Office. | AP

WASHINGTON –  President Donald Trump’s televised “temper tantrum” threat to shut down the federal government unless Congress caves and gives him $5 billion to build his Mexican Wall risks 600,000 jobs and pay raises for all two million federal workers, their unions report.

So unions are working with lawmakers to try to overcome Trump, which may not be easy. But Trump’s foes, including the unions, have the public on their side, Twitter and other electronic media show.

Trump uttered his threat in his confrontation against Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in their first Oval Office meeting in more than a year.

Facing the reality that the incoming Democratic-run House, where Pelosi presumably will be Speaker, will not give him any wall money, Trump engaged in what Schumer called “a temper tantrum,” demanding all $5 billion now. Trump originally demanded Mexico pay for the wall. Mexico, and its leaders across the ideological spectrum, adamantly said no.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security! I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down,” Trump yelled at the two lawmakers as the cameras rolled.

And he didn’t change his stand after throwing cameras and reporters out of the Oval Office following the meeting’s first 17 minutes, which were televised.

“This temper tantrum will not get him his wall and will hurt a lot of people,” Schumer said after their session ended. Congress has offered just over $1 billion for improving U.S.-Mexican border security, none of it for Trump’s “great big, beautiful wall.”

“Don’t characterize the strength that I bring” to the funding fight, Pelosi retorted to Trump, referring to the incoming House Democratic majority and its refusal to fund Trump’s Mexican Wall.

The Dems’ stands at the Dec. 11 confab drew positive responses on Twitter and other electronic media, except from die-hard Trumpites.

“Yesterday, we witnessed what a true leader looks like as Nancy Pelosi schooled Trump in the Oval. With a mandate from voters to work on a bipartisan basis to make life easier for the people, Pelosi brilliantly laid out the stakes of Trump’s reckless wish for a “#TrumpShutdown,” Lesley Abravanel tweeted from Florida.

Border security money would be included in the bill funding the Department of Homeland Security for the entire fiscal year that began Oct. 1. DHS is one of several federal departments – Treasury, Transportation, Interior, and State are others – whose funds run out at midnight on Dec. 21.

The unfunded agencies have 600,000 federal workers, out of a total of just over two million. And a planned 1.9 percent raise for all two million feds – a raise Congress agreed to – is in the legislation that funds the Treasury Department and “general government.”

The Treasury Employees (NTEU) represent most of those workers, though that union and others – including the Government Employees, National Nurses United, and the National Federation of Federal Employees/IAM – represent the rest of the civilian feds, all of whom would be denied a pay raise.

The military will get a 2.6 percent hike under the defense money bill, which Trump already signed. He also signed bills that cover the Departments of Labor – including OSHA — Education, and Health and Human Services, among others, and many smaller agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board.

Understandably, even before Trump’s threat, NTEU President Tony Reardon urged lawmakers to pass the money bills for the agencies his yelling covers.

The workers whom Trump is threatening “face a possible third shutdown for 2018 with renewed work, scheduling and pay uncertainty” right as they head into the holidays, Reardon said. And even those employees deemed “essential” will be forced to work without pay if the shutdown occurs, he told lawmakers.

“These employees would go unpaid during a lapse” in money “and would require congressional action” to get back pay “once agencies are back to operating normally.”

“While there is never a good time to go without pay, for many who will celebrate holidays with family, there is no worse time.  And agencies such as the IRS, tasked with delivering a complex tax filing season following enactment of tax reform, and the Customs and Border Patrol, need both additional fiscal 2019 funds and budget certainty,” Reardon said.

“Every time we face a government shutdown, the paychecks our members and their families rely on suddenly become a political football,” said Government Employees (AFGE) President J. David Cox of the nation’s largest federal workers union.

“Our members take home an average of around $500 each week. Any interruption in their pay will have a devastating impact on them, their families, and their communities.”

“Ah, Washington in December. It is a special place where one can feel winter’s gentle embrace amidst the jingle of charity bells and glistening lights that brighten red-bowed wreaths …and it’s where some federal workers fear a lump of coal in their stockings this year,” NFFE said.

“The threat remains real. If you are in the latter group” of unfunded agencies, “you may want to plan ahead. You will get paid for any work performed up to Friday, Dec. 21, but additional paychecks may be delayed,” NFFE warned.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.