(MARYVILLE,MO)While congress was on break Monday,Senator Roy Blunt made a stop at Northwest Missouri State University to briefly speak at the 8th annual Martin Luther King Jr. appreciate peace brunch.
“He [King] among other things had a real understanding that we are all intricately linked together,”Blunt said."We are better than we've been, we are not as good as we would like to be. This is a good time every year to really think about what it takes to be who we would like to be.”
But as the country spent time celebrating King’s message of unity, Congress remains divided on the issue of border security. After a brief speech on King's legacy, Blunt spoke to the press on the status of the partial government shutdown.
"There is a legitimate expectation of the federal government to secure its borders. There are places where the best way to do that is to build a barrier,"Blunt said.“I think the president has really pretty dramatically changed his view on that from when he was running for president and said we need a big wall all along the whole border. To now wanting to add about 10 or 20 percent to the 650 miles of barriers that every president of the last four [administrations] built.”
Monday marked the 31st day of the partial government shutdown, and lawmakers are working to pass legislation to fully fund the government.
The Bipartisan Budget and Appropriations Reform Act of 2019, proposed by Blunt and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), would allow the federal budgeting process to be adjusted to once every two years instead of annually.
If the bill is approved budgeting would become biannual, but would require an annual review of the health of the federal government; outlining financial obligations like social security, medicare and military retirement. The legislation would also call for a more hands-off approach from the president. Blunt said the suggested change is not a reflection on the current administration, but instead would help fast track planning for the country’s future expenses and priorities.
"We would like for the president, instead of presenting a budget, to tell us how last years money was spent in specific categories and then let the congress move forward doing its work, which is to decide how to prioritize ourself as a country by deciding how we spend our money,"Blunt said.
In Missouri approximately 12,000 federal workers have been locked out of their jobs, or forced to work without pay due to the government shutdown.
"It's a terrible thing for the families who aren't getting paid. A terrible thing for people who are expected to show up at work and not being paid, they will eventually be paid, but that doesn't help you meet the monthly bills,"Blunt said.
Until a decision can be made on when the government will be fully funded, federal agencies and social services remain in jeopardy.
"We don't want to get to the point where the farm credit becomes a problem. We don't want to get to a point where the SNAP program, we used to call food stamp program, becomes a problem," Blunt said.
Congress recently approved a bill to provide retropay to over 800,000 furloughed employees once the government is fully funded.