Politics

Congress agrees to short-term funding fix

Local offices halted work temporarily while federal lawmakers reached deal

Posted

Update: Jan. 23, 7 a.m. Congress agreed to a three-week spending bill late Monday (Jan. 22), allowing the government to temporarily reopen today. A second federal shutdown could occur Feb. 8 unless a long-term spending bill is reached. 

While lawmakers in Washington, D.C. wrangled Monday morning (Jan. 22) for a solution to reopen the federal government, local offices of national agencies were still trying to officially close their doors in preparation for a potentially long-term shutdown.

The federal government "shutdown" Saturday (Jan. 20) at midnight because lawmakers had not passed a temporary funding bill. Support for "dreamers," undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children, was central to the budget negotiations.

The immediate force of the nationwide closure of government offices was somewhat blunted because it came at the start of a weekend.

The Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that operates the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, did not close recreation areas as it has in previous government shutdowns. Dozens of hikers, walkers and fishers took advantage of a sunny afternoon at Wild Rivers Recreation Area on Saturday, though the visitor center and flush-toiltets were gated and locked. Vault toilets, which don't have plumbing, were left unlocked and stocked with toilet paper.

"Closed due to goverment (sic) shutdown. Sorry," read one hand-written sign at the monument.

Back at the office in Taos, the shutdown wasn't so hasty or casual. BLM employees signed furlough documents Monday morning, according to John Bailey, manager of the national monument.

Only essential staff, such as a fire officer and a field manager, will keep working through the shutdown.

Other federal offices, such as the U.S. Forest Service station in Taos, area also closed, with voicemails promising to return calls once funding is restored.

Some federal offices, however, remain almost fully staffed and operational. The National Weather Service office in Albuquerque has suspended only a few "non-core functions" such as outreach and certain pages on their website like snow predictions.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, many Democrats in the Senate joined Republicans in passing a funding measure that would reopen the federal government until at least Feb. 8. Both senators from New Mexico voted in favor of the temporary spending bill.

"While it definitely isn't a perfect deal, we must work together to make progress," said Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, in a statement after the vote.

"The American people don't support President Trump's platform of hate and division - and Democrats will not accept a ‘take it or leave it' offer on immigration that will further tear this country apart. While this agreement opens up a path forward for the DREAMers, I am still fighting to ensure we reach a responsible bipartisan budget agreement that funds our military and our domestic priorities for longer than a few weeks," Udall said.

The bill must go to the U.S. House of Representatives before the federal government can reopen.

In the meantime, BLM employees are monitoring a hotline that will alert them when they can return to work.

This is a developing story. For a complete version, see the Jan. 25 edition of The Taos News.

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