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in the Washington Post
Roughly 2 million civilian employees work for the federal government. They are men and women of every racial background and from every state in the country. Yet there is one thing they all have in common: They made a choice to serve, even knowing, in many cases, that they could be making more money in the private sector.
Unfortunately, it appears that we have a president who, rather than leading the nation’s public workforce, consistently chooses to belittle it. The latest example came when the president took to Twitter on Thursday morning, day six of an unnecessary government shutdown instigated by congressional Republicans at President Trump’s behest. In what has become a familiar pattern of politicizing the largely nonpartisan, nuts-and-bolts work of the federal government, Trump tried to exert political pressure on congressional Democrats to fund his ineffective border wall by asking: “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”
What the president fails to understand is that federal employees don’t go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. What they do wear are the badges of law enforcement and the hats of park rangers and the uniforms of first responders, and they make up the backbone of our government. They bring their skills and expertise to strengthen our nation and make a difference in the lives of their fellow citizens, regardless of political affiliation.
As the senior senator from Virginia, I represent hundreds of thousands of federal employees and service members. I have no idea how many of them are Democrats, but I know this: They include voters and nonvoters alike; they are independents and Republicans and Democrats and libertarians and vegetarians. Those who are hurt by this shutdown include Forest Service firefighters and National Weather Service forecasters in red states, and U.S. marshals and Drug Enforcement Administration agents in blue states. What distinguishes them isn’t their partisan affiliation — it’s their commitment to serving our country.
Like all Americans, federal employees have a right to hold personal political beliefs. But what separates your average public servant from the president is an ability and, indeed, a legal obligation to leave their political views at home and do their jobs without regard for partisan politics.
The president who declared that he would be “proud” to shut down the government is holding one-quarter of the federal government’s agencies hostage in an effort to get $5.7 billion for a wall that experts say would fail to improve border security — in the process treating 800,000 federal workers like poker chips from one of his failed casinos. Sadly, this is only the latest salvo by a president determined to attack and undermine our country’s public servants.
It started with the hiring freezes that threw a wrench into the day-to-day operations of nearly every federal agency — with no apparent benefit to the taxpayers. It continued with executive orders undermining workplace protections for federal workers and their ability to organize as part of a union. The targeting was compounded by the administration’s plan to cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million federal retirees and survivors, and recently led to an attempt by the president to arbitrarily freeze the pay of the entire federal workforce. Thankfully, the Senate saw the shortsightedness of that endeavor and voted to override the administration’s freeze. The House can and should follow suit.
Instead of receiving thanks for their service, right now thousands of federal workers are simply wondering whether their next paycheck is going to come, and how they are going to pay their bills. About 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed — forced to take unpaid time off — while another 420,000 are being expected to work without pay for the duration of the shutdown.
During one of the busiest travel times of the year, thousands of air-traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration agents worked without pay so Americans could get home to spend the holidays with their families. Meanwhile, some of them didn’t know how they were going to pay for Christmas presents for their own kids.
While the Senate moved before Christmas to guarantee back pay for any federal worker hurt by the shutdown, the House left town without voting on the bill. This is to say nothing of the thousands of federal contractors also affected by this shutdown, most of whom are unlikely to ever receive retroactive pay.
These are real people with real families who are struggling. They aren’t bargaining chips, Mr. President. Please stop holding hard-working federal employees hostage. It’s time to work with Congress to reopen the government and end this pointless, painful government shutdown.

Editorial Board Published 5:25 p.m. ET Feb. 2, 2018 | Updated 6:17 p.m. ET Feb. 2, 2018

From an early age, schoolchildren in Virginia learn about the native people of this land and the history of interactions between the tribes and colonists.

“When the first English settlers founded Jamestown in 1607, the Monacan lived above the falls of the James River.” This and many other facts are recited to our kids, and they mostly learn them to pass SOL tests or spur projects in social studies.

But behind our school history textbooks’ version of facts lie many real-life truths. Tribal people have been treated shamefully for centuries in Virginia. In the old days, they widely faced rape, murder, deceit, family separation, disease and land theft. In recent decades, discrimination and disadvantage have still pursued some in their communities.

Across America, this of course is not unique. No consistent and public response to these injustices, that is sympathetic and educated and progressive, has ever taken hold.

We have to own what happens in our own state, though. So let’s be plain about Virginia’s horrific history of treatment of Native Americans. And let us dedicate our future civic progress - at least in some small way - to be intentional and inclusive of these communities. So they can share in gains our Commonwealth makes going forward.

This week, we do celebrate progress. A step. Just a small one - but one long needed.

Six tribes in Virginia have claimed their rightful federal recognition, thanks to President Donald Trump, thanks to Republican lawmakers and to some Democrats who played a key role, such as U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

This recognition for the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Nansemond and Monacan people cracks some barriers. They will now be more able to pursue advances in education, housing and health care.

Bertie Branham, a Monacan Indian, explains cookingBuy Photo
Bertie Branham, a Monacan Indian, explains cooking techniques to a group of second graders from Covington at the Monacan Indian Village at Natural Bridge in this file photo. (Photo: File/News Leader)

Trump deserves credit for signing the legislation, as does U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st District, for working on its behalf. “Today, we celebrate a decade of hard work,” Wittman said in a release Monday night. “This is an issue of respect. Federal recognition acknowledges and protects the historical and cultural identities of these tribes.”

Warner and Kaine helped get the measure approved in the Senate.

The recognition from the U.S. government has changed futures for many tribes across the country. It’s time for Virginia’s native people to share more broadly in this chance for success.

We hope for continued enlightened moves to do right by these communities.

Our View represents the opinion of our Editorial Board: Roger Watson, president; David Fritz, executive editor; and William Ramsey, news director.

By Editorial Board 

In the government shutdown crisis that Congress moved to resolve on Monday, or at least put on pause, there were so-called leaders who saw an opportunity to score cheap political points. Others went AWOL from their duty to help end the standoff. And then there were some, Republican and Democrat alike, who tried to make government work.

Among the unfortunate new lows of the episode: Vice President Pence using soldiers as political props, attacking Democrats as he spoke to U.S. troops in the Middle East. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, whose job of protecting the United States should be above politics, choosing to pile on instead: “Benefits for millions of illegal immigrants instead of paying Americans who put their lives at risk daily to protect ours? I don’t think so.” And, sadly, President Trump himself, approving an attack ad that accused Democrats of being “complicit” in murders committed by undocumented immigrants. All of this nastiness eroded rather than built the trust needed to end the dispute.

Then there were those who could have helped to end the standoff and failed to do so. That starts, again, with Mr. Trump, who repeatedly appeared ready to make deals before the shutdown began but backed away each time. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) also sat by, unwilling to make simple commitments that would have broken the logjam. An assurance that House leaders would allow an up-or-down vote on “dreamers” legislation would have helped unlock negotiations earlier. It also would have been the right thing to do.

By contrast, a bipartisan group of 25 senators spent the weekend talking instead of excoriating one another. This included Democrats who had voted earlier to keep the government open, such as Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), and Republicans who had voted to force the standoff, such as Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). The talks resulted in compromise; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ultimately promised to bring an immigration bill to an up-or-down vote in the Senate within three weeks, and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) joined most other Democrats in voting to reopen the government with that commitment in hand. Partisans on both sides could find grounds for displeasure, but the bargain was reasonable. If the deal does not result in the passage of an immigration bill, Democrats still have leverage over federal funding next month.

From here, that core group of moderate, dealmaking lawmakers should feel empowered. The broad middle in both houses of Congress should no longer wait for direction from a chaotic White House or spineless congressional leadership. They may discover that they have more in common with members of the other party also interested in competent, responsive government than they do with the ideologues in their own camp.

Because what distinguishes the senators working toward a solution, including Virginia Democrats Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, is not a lack of ideals but an interest in achieving positive change — including, most importantly, for hundreds of thousands of dreamers. These are law-abiding immigrants, brought here as small children, eager to contribute to the only country most of them have ever known. They need solutions, not political one-upmanship.