This weekend, the longest government shutdown in US history came to a close — for now.

President Trump on Friday agreed to temporarily reopen the federal government without getting any new money for his U.S.-Mexico border wall, retreating from the central promise of his presidency, for now, in the face of intense public anger.

The president’s humbling concession to the new realities of divided government brought the nation’s longest government shutdown to an end on its 35th day. It was a major victory for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who took charge of a new House Democratic majority just three weeks ago and kept her large caucus unified throughout the standoff.

“Our diversity is our strength,” Pelosi told reporters after the agreement was reached. “But our unity is our power. And that is what maybe the president underestimated.”

Trump announced the deal in an early afternoon speech in the Rose Garden. By evening the Senate, and then the House, had passed the plan by voice vote, and both chambers adjourned.

Trump signed the plan into law later Friday night, bringing an end to weeks of anxiety for 800,000 federal workers who will soon receive back pay after missing two consecutive paychecks. The shutdown had also threatened important government functions, impeding Food and Drug Administration safety inspections and the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to process tax refunds, and — in a final sign that it could continue no longer — causing delays Friday at major East Coast airports as unpaid air traffic controllers failed to report to work.

The deal reopens the government through Feb. 15, while also creating a bipartisan, bicameral committee charged with negotiating an agreement on border security as part of a new spending bill for the Homeland Security Department.

Trump sought to cast the creation of the congressional committee as a win, and even in his moment of defeat did not let up on his demands for a southern border wall that he had repeatedly said Mexico would finance. Renewing his threats, the president insisted Congress must give him wall funding or risk another government shutdown in three weeks — or a declaration of a national emergency that would allow him to circumvent Congress and use the military to build the wall.

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Trump’s announcement marks a major win for Democrats, who’ve resolutely refused to negotiate on border security until the government is open again. While Trump had insisted he would only agree to a short-term spending bill if it included a “down payment” on the wall, Democrats’ refusal to budge on the matter appears to have paid off.

The dramatic shift in Trump’s position comes as pressure has mounted on the White House to end the shutdown, which has now resulted in two missed pay periods for hundreds of thousands of federal workers, delays to air travel, and stalled services across key agencies. Numerous polls in recent weeks showed public opinion increasingly souring on the president, who’s been fielding most of the blame about this impasse.

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Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) on Thursday introduced a bill that would allow federal employees working without pay to collect unemployment benefits during the government shutdown.

His bill would reverse guidance from the Trump administration that says only employees prevented from working until the federal government reopens are eligible for unemployment compensation.

“We have to get cash flowing back into these federal employees’ homes,” Brown said in an interview Wednesday. “This a real hardship.”

The bill is co-sponsored only by Democrats so far, including Maryland Reps. Jamie B. Raskin and David Trone; Virginia Reps. Don Beyer, Elaine Luria and Jennifer Wexton; and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative.

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Trump warned on Friday that if he didn’t get a “fair deal” on money for a wall that Democrats vehemently oppose by February 15, government would close again or he’d invoke emergency powers to build it.

Trump’s refusal, so far, to moderate his position does not take into account damage to his political standing in a shutdown that now looks like a grave miscalculation.

The impasse aggravated moderate voters and damaged his poll numbers, as well as united and emboldened Democrats. Trump’s climbdown threatened his standing among his grass roots army for whom his wall is an almost mystical rallying cause.

So a second shutdown could turn into an even bigger disaster for Trump.

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The federal government shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, according to a new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, reflecting lost output from federal workers, delayed government spending and reduced demand.

The report, which was released Monday, estimated a hit of $3 billion, or 0.1 percent, to economic activity during the fourth quarter of 2018. The impact was projected to be greater during the first quarter of 2019: $8 billion, or 0.2 percent of GDP.

Although most of the damage to the economy will be reversed as federal workers return to their jobs, the CBO estimated $3 billion in economic activity is permanently lost after a quarter of the government was closed for nearly 35 days.

“Among those who experienced the largest and most direct negative effects are federal workers who faced delayed compensation and private-sector entities that lost business,” the report said. “Some of those private-sector entities will never recoup that lost income.”

The analysis does not incorporate some indirect effects of the shutdown, such as the halt in some federal permits and reduced access to loans.

However, the report suggests that businesses were beginning to postpone investment and hiring decisions as a result of the shutdown and warned that the risks were becoming “increasingly significant” as the impasse dragged on.

The CBO report was requested last week by Democratic Reps. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, chairman of the budget committee, and Tom O’Halleran of Arizona, co-chairman of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition.

“I am hopeful that we have finally reached a turning point with these mindless shutdowns, but this CBO estimate serves as a stark warning to President Trump on the consequences of using American workers as a bargaining chip,” Yarmuth said in a statement.

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Senator Warner:

Senator Kaine: For more than a month, President Trump tyrannized hardworking public servants in an attempt to force Congress to do what he wants. I’m relieved we passed a bill to end this shutdown so millions of Americans can receive the government services they’ve been forced to go without and — because of our back pay bill — federal employees will finally get their paychecks. Now both parties in Congress must work to reach a long-term compromise and ensure a government shutdown is never again used as a negotiating tactic.

Congressman Scott: I am relieved that President Trump decided to end the crisis that he manufactured over a wall that he said Mexico would pay for. This shutdown has needlessly caused pain to hundreds of thousands and jeopardized the health and safety of Americans.

Congressman Connolly: It is incomprehensible that it took President Trump 35 days to finally realize his Shutdown is so harmful to the American people. While I am pleased he has agreed to reopen government and get federal employees and contractors back to work, it is still unconscionable that he would hold them hostage in the first place. He must never do this again.

Congressman Beyer:

Congressman McEachin: President Trump and his Republican colleagues finally recognize the overdue necessity of re-opening the government. As I and others have said repeatedly, we can negotiate policy differences without closing the government, without depriving dedicated workers of their paychecks, and without depriving Americans of needed services. Fortunately, federal workers will soon be back on the job, receiving long overdue paychecks so that they can pay their bills and feed their families. We owe these 800,000 workers an apology for being hostages to the President’s intransigence.

Contrary to what President Trump said at the end of his speech, a shutdown should never be the solution or even an option when governing. Everyone must be committed to finding a resolution to this impasse without threatening or enacting another shutdown. Surely, the suffering and deprivation we have seen across the country clearly demonstrated that shutdowns are not the answer to any disagreement.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our Speaker for her strong leadership throughout this crisis. She stood up for what was right, advocated passionately and effectively for the values and priorities of the American people. Her stalwart principled statements and actions played a critical role in bringing about a conclusion, as Americans overwhelmingly wanted, to the longest government shutdown in our nation’s history.

Congresswoman Luria: From my first day in office, the solution to this shutdown has been clear — reopen the government first, give federal employees their back pay, and then start negotiations on border security. I have voted 11 times to reopen the government, and I will do so as many times as necessary. That’s why on Wednesday I led a team of 30 House Democrats to urge our leadership to put forth a clear timeline to end the shutdown.

Congresswoman Spanberger: There is no question that the shutdown has put our federal workforce, national security, and overall economy at serious risk. With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to ending the shutdown.

Now, Democrats and Republicans must work together to fully reopen our government and make sure the spiraling chaos of the past 35 days cannot happen again in a mere three weeks.

Since the shutdown began, I have repeatedly voted for bipartisan funding bills that would restore the function of critical departments and agencies. I’ve pushed for bipartisan discussions, and today I am encouraged by signs that good-faith conversations are moving forward.

Federal employees in Central Virginia and across the country have experienced severe financial pain at the hands of hyper-partisanship, and these public servants deserve much better from their elected officials.

Congresswoman Wexton: Hundreds of thousands of Americans will never recover from Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell’s petty power play. They should apologize for all the suffering they inflicted on federal workers, contractors, and everyone who was impacted by their senseless shutdown. This debacle accomplished nothing other than to lower our nation’s standing in the world and attack our already overburdened federal workforce.

I’m relieved that my constituents will finally get paid and back to work serving and protecting our country. Using shutdowns as leverage in policy negotiations never works, and I hope this President now recognizes that he must never do it again.

Red for Education #REDforED

On Monday, Virginia Education Association held a lobby day in Richmond. Thousands of public educators were out in full force to be the voice for our children, teachers, and public schools by standing up, speaking out, and demanding change.

Photo taken of the Red4Ed rally on the Capitol steps on January 28, 2019

Virginia’s public schools need more resources to meet students’ needs. Take it from me — I had the honor, as Virginia’s secretary of education from 2014 to 2016 under Gov. Terry McAuliffe, to work with teachers across the state, and I know we can do more to support the high quality instruction our kids deserve. Or take it from Virginians sampled in a recent poll by the Center for Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University: an overwhelming 70 percent agreed our schools are underfunded.

Happily, the General Assembly this year has an opportunity to improve funding for public education without raising taxes. Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed that we use enhanced revenues to raise teacher salaries, increase spending for at-risk students, invest in additional school counselors, and make a down payment on repairing aging school buildings. These budget proposals are now pending before Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates.

Virginia has a long and proud history of supporting public education, going back to the 1860s when our system of free public schools was first adopted. Unfortunately, funding for schools took a nosedive during the recession — in Virginia as across the nation — and has yet to recover.

When I was secretary of education, I was grateful on behalf of our students when McAuliffe and the General Assembly made significant contributions toward restoring public school funding in the budget adopted in 2016. But the hole we are in is deep, and if we want to ensure all our students get a world-class education, we must sustain efforts over the longer term, starting with the investments proposed by our governor this year.

The secret sauce of high quality public education is strong teachers. Unfortunately, Virginia is now facing critical teacher shortages, particularly in certain disciplines such as special education and math, and in the less wealthy schools that serve our neediest students.

Virginia’s Board of Education, on which I sit, recently reported that teachers in Virginia earn 30 percent less than their peers in similarly educated professions. Many teachers work second jobs to make ends meet. Attracting and retaining great teachers has gotten harder all across the state. The number of unfilled positions, as well as the number of less experienced teachers, has increased. This is particularly so in our poorer communities, both urban and rural. While some of our wealthier suburbs are able to supplement low state funding with local resources, this option is not realistic everywhere. The governor’s proposed 5 percent teacher pay raise would go a long way toward telling our teachers we value and appreciate their work.

School counselors are also key to student success. They help make our schools safer, and guide students along the path to college and career success. Our schools have recently taken on new responsibilities to help students explore career options — particularly important in light of 21st century workforce needs. Currently, Virginia mandates only one counselor per 450 students, a woefully inadequate ratio that the Virginia Board of Education has long recommended reducing to the national best practice of one per 250 students. The governor’s budget proposals include funds to phase in this change, over three years.

Finally, we need to do more to close our persistent achievement gaps. In Virginia’s less-wealthy communities, both urban and rural, school divisions serve students who have greater needs, but they are working to meet those needs with 89 cents on the dollar compared to wealthier divisions. They have less-experienced instructors and less access to advanced placement and other high-level courses. Not surprisingly, these divisions consistently perform less well on standardized measures of school success. The proposed additional spending for at-risk students will help address this, as will the school building funds, since the biggest infrastructure needs are in these same less-wealthy communities.

Research shows that school spending is directly correlated to student success. Obviously, funds need to be spent well, but that’s not possible if the money isn’t there. Every child deserves a chance at academic and life success. Virginians understand this. Here’s hoping the General Assembly does too.

Virginia Young Democrats Lobby Day

Last week, VAYD had 100 members attend their lobby day in Richmond. The members consisted of high school students to young professionals. Virginia Young Democrats spent the day meeting and talking to legislators at the General Assembly. VAYD members were thrilled Governor Northam, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, Attorney General Herring, and other legislators spent time with the group making it a successful and memorable day on Capitol Square. Check out what the Young Democrats are up to on Facebook!

VAYD photographed with Governor Northam on the Capitol steps

The latest in the 2019 General Assembly Session

Friday morning, capping off what had been weeks full of partisan political games, House Republicans on the Privileges and Elections Committee — led by Delegate Mark Cole — refused to hear a number of resolutions that would have advanced the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to a full vote on the floor of the House of Delegates this 400th General Assembly session.

In failing to live up to their colleagues in the Senate, House Republicans denied the Commonwealth of the historical opportunity to be the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — a measure 81% of Virginia voters say they support.

From Del. Margaret Ransone, Republican Chair of the House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee #1, shouting down an ERA advocate from the dais for “shaking her head,” claiming ERA supporters believe women are “not worthy,” to holding a last-minute, hastily called 7:30AM subcommittee meeting to even hear resolutions on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, House Republicans have not given the ERA and their advocates a fair shout since the session convened on January 9th.

“House Republicans today chose discrimination over equality. This fight is not over. Whether it is next week, next month, or next year after we beat these equality-obstructing House Republicans in November — Virginia WILL ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.” — Jake Rubenstein, DPVA Communications Director

WATCH: Delegate Delores McQuinn on the Equal Rights Amendment

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid out the rationale for the ERA in simple terms: “Every constitution written since the end of World War II includes a provision that men and women are citizens of equal stature. Ours does not.”

Why has it taken this long? Per the Constitution, an amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states to be enacted. While most amendments are put forward without a time limit, this one came with a seven-year deadline. The original was extended to 10 years, but still, only 35 states had ratified the ERA by 1982.

While the clock stood frozen at the federal level, today, nearly half of the states — including Maryland and Alaska — have a version of the ERA written into their constitutions. Gender-based equality represents the present-day views of the vast majority of people across the United States, and is the spirit that underpins our bipartisan legislation.

The deadline passed in 1982, so isn’t this effort futile? Not at all.

Nationally, momentum began to shift about two years ago, as women across the country began to raise their voices again in calls for solidarity and equality. The ERA had never gone away, but the #MeToo movement gave it a jolt of energy and a new spotlight for inequalities in U.S. law.

In March 2017, 45 years to the day after Congress overwhelmingly approved the ERA, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. And then, in May 2018, Illinois became the 37th.

What had for years been referred to as a three-state plan — working to have Congress remove the ratification deadline so that three more states could ratify the ERA, and it would become enshrined in our constitution — had suddenly become a one-state plan.

Earlier this month, Virginia started the ratification process in their state legislature. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah could also become state №38. Congress can do its part by explicitly removing the deadline it once set.

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Tax season officially [began] Monday. Within the first 10 days, Virginia expects as many as 650,000 returns to be filed. They can’t be processed until lawmakers vote to conform state tax policy to federal policy.

The basic problem is simple: Virginia law requires residents who itemize on their federal returns to also itemize on their state returns. But the congressional tax cuts that went into effect last year made complex changes that left state policy out of alignment.

Most notably, Congress doubled the standard deduction, making it likely that many people who usually itemize their taxes would instead choose the standard deduction.

Many Virginia residents who make that switch are likely to wind up with a heftier state tax bill, because the state’s standard deduction is puny — it hasn’t been raised since the 1980s. That could result in $1.2 billion in extra revenue to Virginia over the next two years, according to Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

The legislature is wrestling over what to do with that extra money. In the meantime, state taxpayers — and tax preparers — need to know how to file their Virginia returns.

“We’ll be getting communications out to the public to say we’ll accept your return but we won’t be able to process it until there is a decision by the General Assembly and signed by the governor,” state Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne said Thursday. “The longer it takes, the more disruption to the tax season and the less options we have.”

It gets far worse if lawmakers fail to agree on a policy by May 1, the deadline for Virginians to file their state taxes. That would leave many taxpayers having to file amended returns after the deadline.

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