Vice President Mike Pence Friday promised federal employees who are working without pay that “we’re going to figure this thing out” as the partial government shutdown neared the longest in history.
Speaking to Border Patrol agents at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, Mr. Pence praised the workers for their commitment to their jobs on the 21st day of the shutdown. Friday was the first day without a paycheck for many government workers affected by the impasse.
“Thank you for staying focused on this mission, even in trying times,” Mr. Pence told them. “Focus on the mission. I want to assure you that we’re going to figure this thing out.”
He promised the workers that they’ll receive their pay eventually. When the shutdown stretches into Saturday, it will surpass the closure of 1995-96 as the longest ever.
No new negotiations are scheduled between the White House and congressional Democratic leaders in the dispute over $5.7 billion for a border wall or barrier. President Trump is moving closer to declaring a national emergency that would allow him to build a wall without congressional approval.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen introduced Mr. Pence to the Border Patrol employees as someone committed “to get you what you need and get a deal with Congress.” Mr. Pence pledged that the administration would make sure CBP officials would have the resources needed to do their jobs.
“We need a wall,” he said. “We need a physical barrier in areas of our southern border” to “fight the rising tide of illegal immigration.”
Mr. Pence said December was a record-breaking month for families crossing the border illegally, and that it represented an untenable burden on CBP officials.
About 27,000 crossed last month, according to CBP statistics, with total crossings among the highest levels since Mr. Trump took office.
“We have a humanitarian crisis on our southern border and it demands action by Congress,” Mr. Pence told the group. “We recognize that each one of you risk your lives every day enforcing our laws.”
Mr. Pence also said the president has “taken steps to mitigate the effects” of the shutdown, to make sure food stamp benefits and tax refunds would be issued on schedule. He also said that the House passed legislation that ensured back pay when the government reopens.
He said the administration would “keep fighting to build the wall” because “it’s the right thing to do.”