PD Editorial: First order of business is ending the shutdown

For the approximately 800,000 government employees who have been furloughed there wasn't much reason to cheer the 116th Congress on Thursday.|

The 116th Congress opened Thursday with the usual pomp and pageantry.

There was plenty to celebrate, with 93 new House members and four new senators, accompanied by joyful family members, taking the oath of office.

The new Congress is more diverse, with a record 25 women in the Senate and 102 in the House, including the first Native American and Muslim women.

With Democrats regaining control of the House, the Bay Area gains influence in Washington. San Francisco's Nancy Pelosi is again speaker, the first person to return to the job since Sam Rayburn in 1954. New chairmen include Rep. Jared Huffman of San Rafael, who will preside over a Natural Resources subcommittee. Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena is in line to lead a Ways and Means subcommittee.

But as the festivities unfolded on Capitol Hill, much of the U.S. government remained closed.

Museums on the nearby National Mall were shuttered. And so were scores of federal offices all across the country.

For the approximately 800,000 government employees who have been furloughed or are working without pay - Coast Guard crewmen, aviation safety inspectors and air traffic controllers, among others - there wasn't much reason to cheer.

The impacts of the shutdown, now headed into its third week, aren't limited to federal workers.

Many vendors aren't getting paid, and restaurants and other businesses that cater to federal workers are unusually quiet. Residents of Washington, D.C. can't get marriage licenses. Some national parks are open, but trash is piling up.

The IRS is collecting taxes, but if you're waiting for a refund, well, you'll have to keep waiting. And, as Staff Writers Bill Swindell and Guy Kovner reported this week, local wineries can't get labels for their 2018 vintage approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

President Donald Trump is responsible for the shutdown.

The author of the “The Art of the Deal” is insisting on $5 billion for a wall along the southern border and, so far, has refused to negotiate.

He couldn't get the money when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. And, as of Thursday, the Democrats are the majority party in the House of Representatives.

A divided Congress isn't likely to have many big legislative achievements. But it would be irresponsible to allow the shutdown to continue indefinitely.

Pelosi and her new majority understand that. Before adjourning Thursday, the House was expected to pass legislation to reopen the government, with appropriations for most agencies through September, and funding for the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 to allow for further discussions on border security.

A similar proposal passed the Senate on a voice vote in December, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won't bring up any spending bill that Trump doesn't support.

Most Americans reject that kind of obstructionism. Fortunately, some Senate Republicans do, too. On Thursday, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado said it's time to end the shutdown. McConnell should listen. Trump should, too.

Both parties have scored their political points, and under the House's compromise plan, they can continue negotiating while ending a shutdown that causes pointless suffering for federal workers and needless headaches for the rest of the American people.

That would be something for everyone to celebrate.

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