Capital Region

Stefanik joins Democrats on shutdown votes

Congresswoman shows independence from GOP establishment
Elise Stefanik is pictured while campaigning this past election.
Elise Stefanik is pictured while campaigning this past election.

CAPITAL REGION — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik was one of eight Republicans who voted Wednesday in favor of a bill to reopen the government — the second time she has broken with most Republicans to support an end to the lingering partial government shutdown.

Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, who represents the 21st Congressional District, which stretches from the Capital Region to the Canadian border, voted yes on a bill that would fund some federal departments for the rest of the fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30.

“I made a promise to my district to never vote in favor of a government shutdown, and I have been consistent in keeping that promise,” Stefanik said in a statement on Thursday. “There is an opportunity to re-open the government and secure our border — both are important to me.”

She also expressed sympathy for federal workers, who on Friday will miss their first paychecks since the shutdown started on Dec. 22. She also noted she has chosen voluntarily to go without pay until the impasse is resolved.

“Hardworking people should never lose out on a paycheck just because Congress can’t agree on priorities, which is why I am having my pay withheld during the shutdown — out of solidarity,” Stefanik said. “My biggest concerns right now are the government workers in my district who are working without pay, including our northern border patrol agents, and ensuring that important programs like SNAP [food stamps] are funded.”

Stefanik has shown new independence this year, calling on Republicans to broaden their appeal to get more Republican women elected. Ten female Republicans lost or did not run for re-election in November, leaving Stefanik as one of just 13 Republican women in the House of Representatives.

One of the other Republicans to vote for Wednesday’s funding bill was Rep. John Katko, R-Syracuse. He and Stefanik were the only New York Republicans to support the bill.

Stefanik and Katko also joined Democrats last week in supporting a different bill, one that would have fully funded the agencies affected by the shutdown.

Katko did not explain Wednesday’s vote, but last week he issued a statement saying, “I remain increasingly frustrated by the inaction of both sides in Congress on this issue. Still, a government shutdown is a costly and unnecessary maneuver that does not help resolve Congress’ failure to act.”

More funding votes are expected. Democrats are using a strategy of passing spending bills individually to keep a spotlight on the issue, sending each bill to the Senate to ramp up pressure on Republicans, even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear no funding bills will be voted on without the president’s blessing.

All Democrats, including Capital Region Reps. Paul Tonko and Antonio Delgado, voted for Wednesday’s funding bill.

Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said on Thursday that the bills being passed by the House are based on terms Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump agreed to in December — “until he walked away.”

Tonko said Democrats want improved border security, but ideas for such improvements need discussion.

“We have our sentiments on border security, and we’re all for that, but let’s see what consensus we can build and, meanwhile, get the government re-opened,” he said. “These [federal workers] are asked to go to work and not get paid, and that is unfair and immoral.”

Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, has been an outspoken critic of the shutdown since before taking office on Jan. 1.

“The government shutdown is completely irresponsible,” he said on Thursday. “We’re voting this week on additional proposals to end the shutdown — proposals that have previously gotten bipartisan support in the Senate. There’s no reason for this shutdown to continue.”

He did not address, however, whether the Democrats might need to yield ground to end the shutdown. He said he will have his pay withheld until the shutdown ends in solidarity with federal workers.

“It’s simply reprehensible, particularly when so many people in this country are living paycheck to paycheck,” he said in a prepared statement. “Because of that, and after speaking with my wife, Lacey, we’ve decided that we cannot, in good conscience, accept my paycheck right now as a member of Congress.”

Members of Congress earn $174,000 annually.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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