Baker: Avert Shutdown To Help 'Regular People'

Gov. Charlie Baker said he would like to see Washington lawmakers "have a chance to see some of the regular people that depend on them to do their job." (Sam Doran/SHNS)
Gov. Charlie Baker said he would like to see Washington lawmakers "have a chance to see some of the regular people that depend on them to do their job." (Sam Doran/SHNS)

With the possibility of another federal government shutdown looming at the end of the week, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that members of Congress should "see some of the regular people" who would be impacted by yet another shutdown.

President Donald Trump and Congressional leaders struck a deal late last month to reopen the federal government after the longest shutdown in history. Trump, however, said that if a deal over border wall funding cannot be reached by Feb. 15 he will either shut down the government again or declare a national emergency to build a border wall.

In Massachusetts, Baker said his administration has been having conversations with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka to prepare for the possibility of another federal shutdown.

"I think it's our hope that these folks get to yes," Baker said Monday after a meeting with DeLeo and Spilka. "I've certainly said before that running the government is like the most fundamental thing that they're supposed to do and if they don't come to terms I think we're far better positioned to deal with those issues here in Massachusetts than we were when this whole thing began because we've had 30 days or so to work through a lot of these issues with each other."

Baker said the number one issue related to a possible shutdown would be the impact on the thousands of federal workers who live in Massachusetts. During the last shutdown, Baker and legislative leaders discussed a plan to extend financial support to federal workers who had missed two paychecks during the shutdown and Baker suggested Monday that the plan is still a possibility.

"I think we've worked that one pretty hard and feel pretty good about where we are and our ability to deal with that if it comes to that," he said.

Baker suggested Monday that some in Congress aren't aware of the real-world impacts a federal shutdown has on ordinary citizens, whether they rely on the federal government for work or for various services.

"We walk, live and work within the communities that put us here," he said, referring to himself and state legislative leaders. "We see regular people every single day. We see regular people who depend on government to do its job and perform, and I think it'd be really great for some of those folks in Washington to have a chance to see some of the regular people that depend on them to do their job for them to be able to do their job."

DeLeo added, "The type of paralysis that's going on there is quite different than what happens in Massachusetts."

In addition to the impacts on federal workers, Baker said the state must also consider how a federal shutdown would affect "programming that has been funded to a certain date but not beyond that." The third consideration, he said, is "some core functions of government, like security and defense."

"One of the big lessons I hope everybody took from the last shutdown is it's not a good idea to expect the people who manage the process of getting on and off airplanes to be working without getting paid for an extended period of time," Baker said. "I can't think of a worse issue from a security and a safety point of view."

Though neither DeLeo nor Spilka gave voice to it Monday, Spilka last week suggested that the Senate might try to pass a bill to make unemployment insurance benefits available to federal workers before Friday's deadline for a funding deal. The House and Senate have each scheduled one more session this week — both plan to hold informal sessions on Thursday morning.



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