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The federal government has been in the grips of a partial shutdown for 20 days after Congress and the president failed to agree on a spending bill, and it seems there is no end in sight. Meanwhile, thousands of federal employees – those deemed “nonessential” – have been placed on unpaid leave, furloughed until further notice.

At the crux of the debate is whether or not to fund a wall at the Mexican-American border. And though many Americans, and their elected officials, feel strongly on this issue one way or the other, the shutdown is making the lives of federal workers and people who depend on federal services more difficult. While Congress and President Donald Trump allow this gridlock to continue, those “nonessential” employees are going weeks without something very essential to them – their paychecks.

Many middle-class working Americans, including federal employees and some Homeland Security personnel, don’t have enough money saved to afford months without work. They may be young, live paycheck to paycheck, or have just enough emergency funds for small, unexpected expenses, like car repairs or minor medical bills. Imagine you are deployed in the Coast Guard, for example, and your family is back home. The luxury of going without pay “until further notice” may not be one you can afford. But there is no choice.

And while the fight in Congress continues, it isn’t just federal employees and their families who are being affected.

Agencies citizens depend on, like the National Parks Service, Bureau of Land Management, the EPA, Agriculture and Health and Human Services, are at a standstill. That means services citizens depend on are unavailable. And the growing list is already long.

Soon, social programs like food stamps will be hit, leaving some of the nation’s most vulnerable without the assistance they rely on. Whether the wall is or is not a necessity should be a separate question. To tie this political hot potato to the prospect of a long-term government shutdown does not make sense for the governed. The potential risk of damage to hundreds of thousands of American workers plus the economy at large is just too big. It is not a gamble worth taking to win a political battle for a much debated wall.

Congressmen and women have been quick to point fingers and take to Twitter. However, some in our delegation have said no government shutdown is good. We agree, especially with the thousands of Wyomingites being hit by this shutdown, and encourage our representatives to focus on the issues separately instead of digging in their heels over a border wall. Thousands of hard-working Americans are involuntarily going without pay while they wait for Congress and the president to find a solution. With every day they fail to do so, American citizens are left to pay the price.

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