Utah Rep. John Curtis says Congress should accept responsibility for shutdown

By Lisa Riley Roche, KSL | Posted - Dec. 27, 2018 at 8:41 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — For Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, it's Congress that bears the blame for a partial shutdown of the federal government anticipated to continue into the new year. "In a situation like this, the only appropriate thing to do is point at ourselves," the 3rd Congressional District representative said Thursday, six days into the shutdown. "I think Congress needs to take responsiblity for this." President Donald Trump does share some responsiblity, Curtis said, after suddenly refusing to support a stopgap funding bill that did not include $5 billion to build the wall along the U.S. border with Mexico he promised during his 2016 campaign. But Curtis said it was Congress' inaction on portions of the budget still needing funding that led to money running out Saturday for nine departments including Homeland Security, Transportation and Interior. That's resulted in roughly 420,000 government employees deemed essential continuing to work without pay, while another 380,000 have been furloughed from jobs at the Internal Revenue Service, the National Park Service and other agencies. "Clearly, the president has a piece of this, but if we had done our job and gotten the appropriations done to begin with, we wouldn't be in this position," Curtis said. "We put ourselves in a position where he could do that." Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said the Senate rule requiring 60 votes rather than a simple majority to advance legislation is the real reason for the shutdown, because it's kept the Senate from acting on Trump's requested funding.

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The Senate had passed a bipartisan compromise that included $1.3 billion for border security projects but has balked at approving $5.7 billion for the wall inserted by the House at the urging of the president. "This is another example where procedure hurts policy. The only reason there is a shutdown right now is the Senate filibuster rule," Bishop said, adding he's never been so frustrated with Congress. He said Democratic leaders in the Senate are using the rule to stall, and unless Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., "has a change of heart," nothing is likely to happen until Democrats take control of the House on Jan. 3. But Bishop also said "there's plenty of blame to throw around," although he called Trump's reversal on his willingness to accept a bill without border wall funding "insignificant" and "irrelevant to the situation." Rep.-elect Ben McAdams, who will be the only Democratic member of Utah's congressional delegation when he's sworn into office on Jan. 3, called for both Congress and the president to compromise. "Both sides need to get back to a constructive discussion to end the government shutdown. There's a fiscally responsible way to protect the border and fund and operate the departments and services that Utahns rely on," he said in a statement. McAdams, who is stepping down as Salt Lake County mayor after a narrow victory over Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said the "dysfunction in Washington, D.C., has to end with bipartisan action, and I'm eager to be part of that on day one in Congress." Asked if Trump should compromise on how much money is appropriated for his border wall, the new congressman said "constructive talks need all parties to find a path forward." The president has tweeted that the border wall is "desperately" needed "to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country" and blamed Democrats for blocking the project. "This is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump & the Republicans have a win," one of Trump's numerous tweets on the issue said. "They may have the 10 Senate votes, but we have the issue, Border Security. 2020!" Members of Congress have been told they'll be given 24 hours notice before having to return to Washington from the Christmas recess. No votes are expected until next week at the earliest. Curtis said he is having his congressional paycheck withheld until the shutdown ends. "It's unfortunate that we're politicizing this. The people who get hurt are those who have little or no influence over this, the federal workers who aren't getting paychecks," he said. "I'm willing to take the same pain they are." What's necessary to get them back to work, Curtis said, is for members of Congress to agree to spend money on border security that includes a wall in at least some places, and for the president to accept that. "To me, it's silly to get caught up in, 'Do we compromise or not compromise?' We know we need to make an investment down there," he said. "Let's come together … and not get caught up on a dollar amount that somebody threw out." Contributing: The Associated Press

Lisa Riley Roche

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