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Too many crises to count

The pointless, costly closure of the U.S. departments of Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Treasury, State, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development and Homeland Security is a contrived crisis. There is no excuse for subjecting the people of the United States to this hardship and expense. These agencies should have been funded three months ago when the last annual budget expired.

On the eve of the partial government shutdown, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Governors Association, sent a letter to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders. Democrat Bullock and Republican Hogan reminded our national leaders what they must do to govern America.

“A federal shutdown is indicative of a government that is not working,” Bullock and Hogan wrote. “Governors compromise every day. We must work with partners in our legislatures and with stakeholders throughout our states. It is not a choice; it is a necessity to ensure the citizens we serve in our states – the same ones your represent at the national level – have access to the basic functions that allow them to lead good lives.”

The shutdown means that more than $314 billion in federal funds for vital government services will stop flowing to federal agencies and states and hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed, the governors said.

How many of us would have no problem paying our bills if our pay checks were suddenly delayed?

The strong economy that President Trump has given himself credit for many times is slowing. A government shutdown is another drag on the economy.

The ostensible reason for the shutdown is the White House demand for a $5.7 billion appropriation to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. While running for president, Trump promised to build a wall that Mexico would pay for. Since taking office, he has tried to make Americans pay for his wall. Last week he said that rather than a concrete wall that he has previously promoted, he wishes to build a “beautiful” wall of vertical steel slats.

Security decisions on a 2,000-mile border can’t be based on whims. Security must be based on strategies that will work to keep Americans safe, keep track of who enters and leaves our nation, interdict human traffickers and drug traffickers and welcome new immigrants under U.S. laws.

Congress has already appropriated $1.7 billion for a physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico in the 2018 and 2017 budgets, yet the administration has spent only 6 percent of it. One border wall project that was expected to cost $445 million in the Rio Grande Valley is now going to cost taxpayers $787 because of cost overruns.

President Trump still has the opportunity to end 2018 by bringing the entire government back to work. He should sign a funding bill that doesn’t include wall money. He and congressional leaders should agree to start negotiations in January about border security and immigration.

“Governors believe in your ability to find a path out of this situation and ensure we have a federal government that works,” Bullock and Hogan wrote Friday. “We stand ready to help in any way we can.”

Listen to the governors, Mr. President. Let America’s public servants go back to work – and get paid for their work. Let them serve the people in farm and housing programs, federal courts, parks and airports all over this nation.

The solution is clear: Approve a budget that allows our government to function adequately; complete that task before the New Year arrives. Debate the steel slat wall later.

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