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Government Shutdown

Park ranger Kevin Sturmer, right, tells Sarah Schlesinger of Boulder, Colorado, that a road is closed to traffic Saturday after a light overnight snowfall in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado. The road was unplowed because of the federal government shutdown. 

With the partial government shutdown showing no signs of ending, thousands of federal workers in Wyoming remain in limbo with several agencies closed or offering reduced services.

It’s unclear exactly how many of the state’s roughly 5,000 federal employees are directly affected by the shutdown. During the shutdown, essential services are still available, meaning some government employees are working without pay. Other services have been shut down and workers have been furloughed for the time being.

As the federal government wound down operations over the weekend, lawmakers looked past Christmas with a wary eye toward negotiations over a spending bill to fund the remaining quarter of the federal government. But they remain at an impasse over funding for a border wall, which President Donald Trump campaigned on and has made a signature priority.

The affected departments with the biggest presence in Wyoming include the Department of Agriculture (1,064 employees) and the Department of the Interior (2,034 employees), according to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

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Not all employees will be affected however: some essential workers, such as law enforcement, emergency response personnel and others will remain active during the shutdown.

With Congress unlikely to convene until at least Thursday, leadership for both Senate Republicans and Democrats have expressed doubt that any solution containing wall funding could be passed before the end of this year. Over the weekend, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said that the Senate lacked the votes to pass funding for a border wall and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Friday he would not resort to a “nuclear option” to pass border wall funding, saying through a spokesman that Senate Republicans do not plan to change filibuster rules that have prevented them from passing a spending bill with Trump’s demand for border wall funding.

Wyoming’s delegation weighs in

If the government shutdown extends into the next Congress, when the Democrats take the majority, it is highly unlikely that a border wall will be part of the House’s appropriations requests.

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the upcoming minority, however, believes the wall is essential to border security, hinting that the House of Representatives will, at least, be split on partisan lines in January over the wall’s funding.

“All of us need to stop talking about this from a political perspective,” Cheney said in a television appearance on Sunday. “The president has been very clear, we need to secure our border – the House voted for a bill that does just that – and we need the Democrats in both the House and the Senate to come to the table and get the work done. I think all the calculations over who this helps or hurts, at the end of the day the majority of the American people want the border secured.”

Though a version of a Senate appropriations bill without wall funding passed last week by a voice vote – meaning the voting record of senators was not recorded – Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi voted Friday to take up the House version of the bill, which includes money for the wall.

“I voted to support the government funding bill that included additional funds to be sure we have border security,” Enzi said. “I believe we need to protect our borders against those who seek to enter our country illegally. Unfortunately, it is clear this legislation does not have enough votes to pass the Senate. I hope Congress and the president will act soon to fund the government.”

Several days earlier in an appearance on Face The Nation, Barrasso said he would support a compromise deal to avert a partial government shutdown, though he preferred honoring all of the president’s appropriations requests.

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“Shutting down the government, even partially, never benefits anyone,” Barrasso wrote in a statement on Friday. “I voted today to finish funding our government, secure our borders and give Americans in disaster areas the resources they need to recover. Senate Democrats, who supported border security in the past, chose to block the funding necessary to keep our nation’s borders secure.”

The evening ultimately ended with the Senate unable to reach a deal on the bill and without a vote, prompting a partial shutdown of the government.

Wyoming impacts

Wyoming’s national parks – Yellowstone and Grand Teton – will be open to the public during the shutdown. However, guest services facilities like public restrooms and entrance gates will be closed and the parks, save for law enforcement and emergency personnel, will not be staffed.

Wyoming’s national monuments will also be affected. Devils Tower National Monument is completely closed during the shutdown, and all facilities at Fossil Butte National Monument and Fort Laramie National Historic Site are closed. In January 2017, these sites counted nearly 2,800 visitors between the three, according to the National Parks Service, most of which were at Devil’s Tower.

Numerous agencies crucial to other Wyomingites, however, are impacted. With the shutdown of the Department of the Interior, agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian affairs have ceased non-essential activities.

Wyoming’s Military Department is also affected, though with military funding already secured, the roughly 6,000 active and reserve service members in the state will not be impacted by the shutdown.

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Follow politics reporter Nick Reynolds on Twitter @IAmNickReynolds

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Politics Reporter

Nick Reynolds covers state politics and policy. A native of Central New York, he has spent his career covering governments big and small, and several Congressional campaigns. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2015.

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