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In display of solidarity, Delgado refuses paychecks until shutdown ends

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    U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, with his family in Washington, D.C., after being sworn into office Jan. 4.
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    President Donald Trump at the signing ceremony for the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, Jan. 9. Third from left is Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and at right is Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.
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    Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speak after lawmakers met with President Donald Trump to discuss the government shutdown and border security, at the White House in Washington.
January 11, 2019 04:32 pm

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, said Thursday he will not take a paycheck until the partial government shutdown ends.

Friday was the first day of the shutdown that many federal government employees will not get paid.

Delgado, who officially started in Congress a week ago, announced Thursday he asked the House of Representatives Chief Administrative Officer to withhold his pay as long as the shutdown continues as a demonstration of solidarity with federal workers who did not receive paychecks Friday.

“Tomorrow, federal workers across the country and in upstate New York will miss their first paycheck due to the government shutdown,” Delgado said Thursday. “As someone who grew up in a working-class family in Schenectady, I understand what a paycheck means for a family, whether it’s for paying for groceries or filling a prescription, paying the rent — no one should have to put their lives on hold because of our inability here to find common ground and reopen the government.”

The partial government shutdown entered its 21st day Friday, after legislators in Washington failed to pass legislation to fund the government by the Dec. 22 deadline, with no end in sight as congressional Democratic leaders continued to butt heads with President Donald Trump over his request for $5 billion for a security wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The House of Representatives on Jan. 3 passed a stopgap spending bill that would fund most of the government through September and the Department of Homeland Security through February. The bill, which contains no funding for a wall, was blocked from a vote in the Senate on Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who argued that Democrats supported a physical barrier at the southern border under President Barack Obama and that they oppose such a barrier today to spite Trump.

The Senate under the same Republican leadership passed a similar temporary spending bill Dec. 19 that would have funded the government until Feb. 8, and also did not include the requested funding for a wall. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Republicans then passed a bill with the requested money for the wall after the president told Republican leaders he would not sign a bill without money for the wall.

But since then, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives.

Public reaction in the Twin Counties to the shutdown has been mostly hostile.

“Something needs to be done,” said Pat Kilmer, of Greenport. “Politicians need to work together to get something done. It’s a disgrace that no one can get along. And it’s not just the president, it is the Democratic Party, too.”

Peter Stillman, of Chatham, agreed that elected officials need to compromise and reopen the government.

“I think politicians have lost it,” Stillman said. “They can’t cooperate, they can’t compromise. It’s hideous. It’s not an advanced concept.”

Stillman believes that something needs to be done to better secure the country’s southern border.

“It’s an unprotected border,” Stillman said. “There are no countries that do that. You have to know who is coming in. My wife, her parents came through Ellis Island. That’s the way it’s supposed to get done.”

June King, of Catskill, blamed Trump for the shutdown, saying that the president is holding federal employees hostage.

“The president is having a temper tantrum,” King said. “And he is holding everyone hostage, everyone who works in the sectors that he has shutdown, to get his way.”

Columbia County has 4,800 government employees, not all of whom are employed by the federal government, as of November 2018, according to the most recent available data from the state Department of Labor. That is close to the number of government employees the county had the same time last year. Greene County has 4,800 government employees as well, which is 100 employees less than the previous year.

More than 800,000 federal workers have either been furloughed or have worked without pay since the shutdown began in December.

Delgado entered Congress in this contentious climate and since before taking the oath of office has called the shutdown irresponsible.

“It’s simply reprehensible, particularly when so many people in this country are living paycheck to paycheck,” Delgado said. “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.”