Senate votes to avoid shutdown, now up to the House: What it means for Wright-Patt

The Senate approved legislation to temporarily fund the government, a key step toward averting a federal shutdown after President Donald Trump backed off his demand for money for a border wall with Mexico.

A quarter of the federal government could shut down just before Christmas if lawmakers don’t agree on a spending bill, but the area’s largest federal employer should escape closing.

Senators passed the measure, which would keep government running to Feb. 8, by voice vote without a roll call Wednesday night. The House is expected to vote before Friday's deadline, when funding for a portion of the government expires. Without resolution, more than 800,000 federal workers would face furloughs or be forced to work without pay, disrupting government operations days before Christmas.

While the White House indicated Trump was open to reviewing whatever Congress could pass, the president did not immediately weigh in on the short-term plan.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is not expected to close if there is a shutdown.

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A partial government shutdown could occur at midnight on Dec. 21 over the failure of Congress to pass spending bills to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

The Department of Defense spending has not been in contention during this round, but the impact is still uncertain if negotiations between Republican and Democrats further deteriorated. An Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bill signed by Trump in September included full-year funding for the Department of Defense and the work at Wright-Patt.

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A spokesman for Wright-Patt said the base has not received any instructions about how to implement a shutdown. “Absent that guidance, we couldn’t begin to guess what would be impacted,” the spokesman told the Dayton Daily News. Wright-Patt is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 employees, with both civilian and military workers on base. About 13,000 of those employees are civilians.

Museum spokesman Rob Bardua said there would be no impact to the museum if the current continuing resolution were to expire. If a government shutdown did occur, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will not close.

POLITICIANS SPEAK OUT

Local politicians have sounded off about the implications a shutdown would have on Ohioans. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is concerned about a potential government shutdown and the impact it could have on civilian employees, according to Emily Benavides, spokesperson for Senator Portman.

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“That’s why Rob authored the End Government Shutdowns Act, which would prevent these shutdowns, giving federal workers and their families more stability, providing lawmakers with more time to make smarter decisions for taxpayers, and ensuring we avoid disruptions that ultimately hurt our economy and working families,” Benavides. “Rob hopes both sides can come together to find a solution that keeps our government open while increasing border security funding for the safety and security of all Americans.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the funding must continue for the government.“Think about who is hurt by a government shutdown – our military men and women at Wright-Patt and other installations around Ohio, people who depend on Social Security benefits, and farmers who need to access their local farm service agency office. The fact that the President is willing to put those people at risk over a temper tantrum is despicable,” Brown said.

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During past government shutdowns, federal employees at the IRS, Health and Human Services Department, the Justice Department, the State Department, Department of Defense, U.S. intelligence agencies, Homeland Security, Interior Department and Department of Transportation have been impacted.

On Jan. 20, the government shut down for a weekend due to immigration issues but re-opened on Jan. 23. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and other local governmental institutions, including Wright-Patt, closed until lawmakers reached a deal to fund operations.

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There also was a second brief shutdown on Feb. 9 but lasted only five hours. When the shutdown struck in 2013, both furloughed workers and those who stayed on the job were reimbursed. During that shutdown, much of the federal government was closed for 16 days.

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