How to Help End the Government Shutdown

Activism by Carolyn Suzuki

Image by Carolyn Suzuki from her upcoming book “F is for Feminism

I live in DC, so the ongoing U.S. government shutdown is pretty much all people talk about these days. 800,000 federal government workers across the country have been scrambling to make ends meet since the shutdown began on December 21. Some are furloughed, meaning they are legally prohibited from working during the shutdown, while those deemed essential (like TSA employees) are working without pay. This Friday they will all miss their second paycheck. My husband is a federal employee at a fully funded agency, so we’re thankfully okay. But many of our friends and neighbors are affected, and I know the shutdown is impacting thousands more outside the DC area. So, I’m curious: are you affected by the U.S. government shutdown? Do you know anyone who is? Maybe you have a friend or family member that works for a U.S. government agency and has either been furloughed or is required to work without pay. Or you know a first time homeowner trying to get an FHA loan. Or there are small businesses in your area waiting for inspections or licenses from USG agencies.

Food inspections, airplane inspections, small business licensing, counterterrorism investigations, Coast Guard operations – these are critical government functions that have been impacted by the shutdown. I think we can all agree that we’d like the government to reopen so federal employees can either get back to work or get paid for the work they’re currently doing. If you’d like to help end the government shutdown, you can join the National Call Day taking place across the country TODAY to put pressure on the Senate to reopen the government.

To reopen the government, Congress (both the House of Representatives and the Senate) have to pass bills funding the government, and the President has to sign the bill – or Congress has to override the President with a 2/3 majority. Only Congress can authorize funding, so while the President can make demands, it’s up to Congress to decide what it wants to fund. When the new session of Congress opened on January 3, the House passed a bill that would fund the government without border wall funding, but Mitch McConnell has refused to allow a Senate vote – despite being a co-equal branch of government with enough votes to override Trump’s veto if needed.


On Thursday, the Senate will vote on two opposing funding bills that would reopen the government. One proposed by the White House, the other proposed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The White House bill includes the $5.7 billion for construction of a permanent wall and would also impose serious restrictions on asylum petitions for Central American migrants, including limiting the number of people that can apply for asylum and an outright ban on asylum for Central American minors presenting themselves at the border. Those migrants would be automatically returned to their country of origin WITHOUT an asylum hearing. It would also expand immigrant jail beds by 20%, meaning the Trump administration would have extra capacity to detain families seeking asylum in the United States. The White House proposal claims to extend DACA, but instead it replaces DACA with an entirely new program that is far more restrictive, excluding Dreamers who would be eligible for or even in DACA now. The bill from Minority Leader Schumer is a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government through February 8 with NO wall funding. It’s a temporary fix, but it would allow government workers to get paid and/or go back to work while negotiations continue. 

We need to put pressure on the Senate to vote in favor of the clean CR. You can look up the address and phone number for your two senators here or on It’s particularly important to contact your senators if you live in a state with Republican senators, but it’s a good idea to contact Democratic senators, too. You can email your senator directly by clicking the contact link below each senator’s name on this page, and you can contact Senator McConnell directly here. It’s best to keep things short and to the point when contacting your senator. Include your name and exact address so they know you’re a constituent, then tell them exactly what you want them to do. For example:

My name is Sarah Smith and I’m a constituent at 109 Main Street, Townsville, California. I’m calling to urge Senator Harris to vote for the clean Continuing Resolution that would fund the government through February 8 and against President Trump’s hateful, anti-immigrant bill. Holding America hostage for border wall funding is counterproductive and immoral. Congress must pass a funding bill to reopen the government immediately, and override the President’s veto if necessary. Thank you for your time and attention.

And if you get phone anxiety and want to get a message to your representatives out quickly, Resistbot is a texting service that will deliver your message for you. You can also use Resistbot to send a message to the White House! Text the word RESIST to 50409 to get started.

Without public pressure, this government shutdown could go on indefinitely. Federal employees are prohibited from going on strike, so sadly the Trump administration can continue forcing them to work without pay as long as it wants – at least until those employees quit and find other jobs (assuming that’s an available option for those employees). I don’t think it’s right to treat federal employees this way, and the longer this shutdown continues the bigger the impact will be. We should demand that our elected officials do everything possible to pass a funding bill and reopen the government, with or without the President’s support.