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With negotiations ‘at a standstill,’ some federal workers worry they’ll never get paid

Wednesday marked the first full business day of the partial government shutdown. Many affected employees had to work even though they will not receive pay on their normal schedule, while others who are furloughed had to drop off equipment they use for their jobs. For details on why negotiations are “at a standstill” and employee fears of not getting paid, William Brangham talks to Lisa Desjardins.

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  • William Brangham:

    The partial government shutdown has extended into day five, and it's the first full weekday that thousands of federal workers felt the impact of this furlough.

    The "NewsHour"'s Lisa Desjardins is here with an update.

    So, Lisa, where do things stand in the current negotiation?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    First of all, we saw thousands of federal workers today have to return to work this first business day of the shutdown, turn in their phones, shut down their computers.

    Other — also, another several hundred thousand workers are still working, though it's not clear when or if they will be paid. Now, negotiations right now are basically at a standstill, William. There were some what Democrats call good-faith discussions between Senator Chuck Schumer and the top Senate Republican.

    There he is, Richard Shelby, on the Appropriations Committees. That was over the weekend. But there hasn't really been any movement since then. And, William, both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill say they're waiting for the president to be clear on what exactly he will accept.

  • William Brangham:

    And what we know is, the president keeps signaling that this is going to potentially be a very long shutdown.

    Is there any chance that this logjam could break?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, we know it will not break in the next day, because members of Congress have been — said — have been told they will get 24 hours' notice before a vote on any deal.

    And we were told there will not be any vote tomorrow. So they shutdown will last at least two more days. And then, once we get past tomorrow, think about this. This is — these are the last days of this Congress. So it's hard to say if a weekend deal is in the cards.

    That's sort of a long shot. Then we get to next Thursday, when Nancy Pelosi and Democrats are slated to take over the House. That's why people think this could be a longer shutdown, the idea that, once Democrats take over the House, then we will have a few days of different jockeying and go into the second week of January, possibly.

  • William Brangham:

    We could sit here and talk about the timing and the jockeying that's going on, on Capitol Hill, but there are also real-world impacts to the shutdown.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    We reached out and spoke to or tweeted with, communicated with many federal workers who are feeling this.

    I want to highlight one, this woman named Maria Ortega. Her husband works for Customs and Border Protection. And she said that she is now worried whether or not he will be paid. That's a regular theme, because, usually, as many people know, federal workers are paid after shutdowns.

    But there's a lot of concern over President Trump and whether that pay will come through. And, of course, contractors, William, some of them, depending on their contract, will not be paid after the shutdown is over.

  • William Brangham:

    Lisa, thank you so much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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