Appalled Baker Says Shutdown Shouldn't Be Hard To Solve

With President Trump and Republicans bearing the brunt of the blame for the federal government shutdown, Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said Monday that neither his party nor congressional Democrats should be proud of what's happening.

"My pox is on all the houses down there," the governor told reporters.

Border security remains a serious issue, Baker said, but disagreements between the White House and congressional Democrats over how to secure the border should not be an excuse for shutting down the government.

"Border security is a really big deal, but the inability of all of the players down there to actually get their act together and come to terms on something they can all agree to is appalling," Baker said.

The partial shutdown of the federal government entered its 24th day on Monday with little sign that congressional Democrats and the White House were any closer to a deal on border security to reopen the government. A Washington Post/ABC News poll published over the weekend found that 53 percent of Americans blame Trump and Republicans for the shutdown, compared to 29 percent who blame Democrats.

The governor made his most extensive comments to date on the prolonged government shutdown after a meeting with Democratic leaders at the State House where he spoke with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka about doing something to help furloughed federal workers.

Baker said there are 47,000 federal workers who live in Massachusetts and thousands more federal contractors who are going without pay because politicians in Washington can't reach a government funding agreement.

"And in many cases you're putting important projects at risk and scaring the bejesus out of a lot of people about whether or not they're going to be able to pay their rent or their mortgage or buy food or whatever," he said.

The challenge of intervening, according to the governor, is that new benefits for federal workers would "have a hard time fitting within the traditional box of how the [unemployment insurance] program operates," and it's unclear how the state would appropriate the necessary money or get reimbursed by the federal government.

"I think they should all get together and deal with it," Baker said. "And if that means people don't get exactly what they want, well welcome to government and welcome to life in the pubic sector. But this should not be that hard to solve," Baker said.

Without mentioning names, Baker responded to a question about making his frustration known by saying he had spoken to "a lot of people on both sides" about his administration's concerns.

Trump last week in a televised address to the country from the Oval Office said that illegal immigration had created a national "crisis" as he made his case to the public for his insistence on $5.7 billion for a border wall.

Asked if border security had reached crisis proportions, Baker said, "I think border security is a really important national issue and anybody who doesn't needs to talk to some of the people who deal with all the issues associated with fentanyl and drug trafficking and all the rest."

The same Post/ABC News poll that found Americans blaming Trump for the shutdown also found increased support for the wall, though a majority of Americans still oppose the idea. Support for building the wall increased over the past year from 34 percent to 42 percent, according to the poll, while 54 percent are opposed.

Baker, when asked if the debate over border wall funding should be "tabled" to facilitate a deal to reopen the government, said, "If that's really the only issue that's at play here, they should figure out some way around it, yeah."

The governor said his administration has been in frequent contact with Massport officials about security operations at Logan Airport and the port, and they have reported back that they're "managing."

"But the longer this kind of thing goes on the more drawn out it becomes, the more stretched people become and the more likely it becomes that somebody makes a mistake, which obviously nobody wants to see happen," he said.

The governor said he was "most worried" about what would happen with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps. The federal government has ensured that SNAP recipients will get benefits in January and February, but the Baker administration was rushing Monday to get the federal government the necessary files it needs earlier than usual to ensure February benefits are not disrupted.

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders went so far as to excuse herself from the Community Behavioral Health Promotion and Prevention Commission meeting she was at Monday afternoon to deal with a "technical glitch" regarding SNAP benefits and the shutdown.


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