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*** As expected, the Senate voted down two proposals to reopen the government in a pair of votes on Jan. 24. The first vote, which included White House-backed legislation for $5.7 billion for a border wall, failed to advance on a 50-47 vote. A second vote on a House-passed bill to re-open the government on a continuing resolution through Feb. 8 that had no wall funding failed on a 52-44 vote. In each case, 60 votes were needed to advance.

After the vote, Senate leaders met to discuss a plan to reopen the government on a continuing resolution. During those talks, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement saying that "the three-week CR would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that a "big down payment" was not "a reasonable agreement between the senators."

*** A congressionally chartered commission published its interim report on the future of public service on day 33 of the partial government shutdown. Against this inauspicious backdrop, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service sounded some familiar notes of alarm about the prospects of attracting young people to government in its report.

"We have learned that national service suffers from a lack of broad awareness about potential opportunities and significant barriers to access for many young Americans who might otherwise have a desire to serve," the report states. The commission cited cumbersome hiring processes as well as barriers to leaving and returning to public service. Some of the proposals the committee is considering include adopting a universal service program, either mandatory or "formally" encouraged, as well as expanding the selective service requirement to include women.

Before the final report to Congress is due in March 2020, the commission will hold a series of public hearings to gauge feedback, the first of which will be in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 21. 

*** Even without the shutdown, federal agencies are at risk of failure under the stress of extreme crisis, according to a new study released by the Senior Executives Association.

The study, titled Are Declines in U.S. Federal Workforce Capabilities Putting Our Government at Risk of Failing, argues that the confluence of several factors -- the decline of the nonpartisan civil service, the rise of new and technologically driven risks including the threat of cyberattacks, the increasing polarization of Congress along ideological lines and the pay gap between senior government and private sector positions -- is putting the U.S. government in a bad position when it comes to confronting and adapting to the pace of social and political change.

The conclusions of the study, said SEA president Bill Valdez, "are chilling and should put our nation on high alert that vital national institutions are in danger of failing just when we need them the most."

Posted on Jan 25, 2019 at 12:37 AM


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