Lobbying groups and unions are stepping up their campaigns aimed at ending the partial government shutdown, making clear their mounting frustration as the financial pressures hit businesses and furloughed workers alike.
Some sectors, such as those in travel and tourism, are coping with direct disruptions to their businesses, with top destinations such as national parks shuttered. Even seemingly unrelated interests say the shutdown has begun to upend their policy agenda in Washington because the impasse is consuming the time of lawmakers and the administration.
“From a lobbying standpoint, certain clients and industries are affected directly. Then there’s the broader problem that the shutdown delays the normal cadence of activity,” said Stewart Verdery, who runs the Monument Policy Group, a lobbying firm with such clients as the U.S. Travel Association, Amazon.com and Zillow Inc., among others.
Furloughed regulators have put long-term rulemakings and other efforts on hold, Verdery said.
And the congressional appropriations process, which showed bipartisan progress last year when Congress passed five of its 12 annual appropriations bills, remains mired in a debate that has lasted long past the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.
“Last year, it was really good until it was really bad,” Verdery said of the spending bills. “You don’t have an end to last year’s appropriations process yet, which means you can’t make progress” on the spending bills for fiscal 2020.
Already this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest business lobby, sent a letter to lawmakers and the White House, calling for an end to the shutdown.
The Airports Council International-North America also urged President Donald Trump and congressional leaders to resolve the standoff.
“Due to the shutdown, the programs, protocols, and personnel at the federal agencies directly responsible for supporting the U.S. aviation industry — namely the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — are all limited to essential operations,” ACI-NA president Kevin Burke wrote. “As this shutdown drags on, ACI-NA and our members are increasingly concerned about the ability of these key federal agencies to continue providing the safety and security services that are so critical at U.S. airports, as well as at international airports with CBP pre-clearance facilities.”
Unions call for action
Most corporate groups have shied away from putting the blame for the shutdown on either the president or congressional Democrats. But some union groups allied with Democrats have been more direct in their criticism of the president.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement characterized Trump’s Tuesday night address to the nation as “dehumanizing people, fear-mongering and lies.”
“One cannot talk about the border crisis in this country without recalling the haunting images of caged children, many of whom are still separated from their parents at the Southern border,” she added. “One cannot talk about a humanitarian crisis in this country without identifying with the millions of people harmed by Trump’s government shutdown, including the 800,000 government employees locked out of their jobs. If President Trump cared about the safety and security of this country, he’d reopen the government and negotiate with Congress as every other president has done in the history of the United States.”
The labor federation AFL-CIO, which represents federal government workers, among others, is planning a rally at its headquarters and the White House, a block away.
The union’s president, Richard Trumka, will appear at the rally Thursday with Democratic lawmakers including House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia and Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania also planned to attend, according to the AFL-CIO.
“Ending the government shutdown and putting people back to work must be the highest and only priority of the U.S. Senate,” Trumka said in a statement this week. “The AFL-CIO calls on all senators to reject consideration of any bills or business unrelated to opening the government.”
John Weber, a spokesman for the AFL, added that the union has been “highlighting the fact that this manufactured crisis isn’t just a political fight … 800,000 federal workers are being forced to go without a paycheck and each of them has a story to tell about the unnecessary hardship that they’re suddenly facing.”
Even after the shutdown ends, lobbying groups may continue to call on Congress to minimize future problems during government lapses in appropriations.
Verdery said that after its immediate priority of reopening the full federal government, the travel industry may seek a legislative fix to require national parks and other tourist destinations to remain open in future shutdowns. He called damage at some now-shuttered national parks “heartbreaking.”
“We have to have a better strategy in the future so that these are not left as kind of a drive-by victim here,” he said.
Watch: Jeffries, Clark and new members call to end the shutdown and protect the ACA