This is the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. With no federal food safety inspections, limited access to USDA loan programs for farmers, and climate and environmental research at a standstill, our food system — and all of us — are at risk.
Meanwhile, over 800,000 federal workers are expecting a second missed paycheck this week, and the president’s State of the Union address has been cancelled because, well . . . the state of the union is shut down.
And for what?
The House of Representatives passed a spending bill back in early January that would have ended the shutdown. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to act for weeks, despite the fact that the Senate unanimously passed the very same bill in December. Today, Senator McConnell brought a deeply partisan proposal to the floor for a vote that included funding for the president’s border wall, knowing it was unpassable. The proposed legislation didn’t get the votes needed to pass, as expected.
The bill that would have reopened the government, enabling ongoing negotiations on border security and an operational federal government lacked support from McConnell and failed as well.
Workers are not bargaining chips
This unprecedented gambit from the White House — keeping the government shut until Congress agrees to a particular policy proposal — is not how the appropriations process should work. Yet Senator McConnell is falling in line behind the president’s politically motivated ploy to demand funding for a border wall, a wall being justified by fear and division that are deeply rooted in racism.
Meanwhile, our health and safety are held hostage. We don’t need a wall. We need a safe, fair, and just food system for all.
A food system for all
Here at PAN, we know that successfully ending reliance on hazardous pesticides can only happen by creating healthy, just food and farming systems. And this means for all of us — farmers, scientists, farmworkers, eaters — regardless of immigration status.
We won’t stand by while federal scientists and workers are furloughed or work without pay, farmers lack crucial support as planting season nears, and we all sit down to meals with little assurance as to the safety of our food. Senator McConnell can — and must — support legislation to end the shutdown without a border wall.
So what’s next? Given that the Senate failed to pass legislation to reopen the government today, talks about possible routes to an operational federal government are ongoing. Together, we’ll continue to urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to open the federal government — without a border wall. It’s the right thing to do.