As Donald Trump and the rest his administration prepare for life moving forward without highly respected Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis, who resigned this week after clashing with the president, hundreds of thousands of federal employees in Washington and beyond are preparing for a government shut down.
Trump’s demand for border wall funds moved the government closer to a shutdown as the Republican-led House approved a package Thursday with his $5.7 billion request that is almost certain to be rejected by the Senate. More than 800,000 federal workers will be facing furloughs or forced to work without pay if a resolution is not reached before funding expires at midnight Friday.
The shutdown crisis could be one of the final acts of the House GOP majority before relinquishing control to Democrats in January.
The measure, which includes a nearly $8 billion disaster aid package many lawmakers want for coastal hurricanes and California wildfires, now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are grim amid strong opposition from Democrats. Sixty votes are needed to approve the bill there. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned senators they would need to return to Washington for a noontime vote today, as most have already gone home for the holidays.
As I record this, the vote has not yet been held. If the shutdown occurs, it will do so at midnight tonight.
Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe said yesterday, after voting along party lines to approve wall funding, that he could not vote for a continuing resolution to prevent a partial government shutdown without including disaster relief for victims of the wildfires in California. At the same time, Roe said he did not relish the idea of a partial shutdown of the federal government, which he said would not impact essential services such as Medicare and Social Security.
Trump has urged Senate leader Mitch McConnell to utilize the “nuclear option” in order to pass the bill, but McConnell has gone on record saying he would not consider such an action, and even if he did, several Republican senators have stated they would not vote in favor of the measure, making it a moot point.
In local news, a Washington County Detention Center inmate authorities said was found unresponsive after an assault died yesterday after spending three days on life support. Joseph M. Lockner, of Gray, was found on the bathroom floor by a detention officer who was conducting rounds in Lockner’s pod Monday afternoon. A press release from the department did not detail Lockner’s injuries, only that he was on life support at an area hospital.
No other details of the assault, including any suspects, were released. The investigation remains active and ongoing.
Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department investigators charged three people with attempted murder on Monday for allegedly assaulting a woman, gagging her and throwing her over an embankment near the Nolichucky River before leaving her to perish in freezing weather overnight on Sunday.
Kendra M. Adams, Matthew Adam Taylor, and Austin Denver Gill were arrested and charged after authorities responding to a call in the Unaka Springs Road area found a woman “in hypothermic distress with no shoes or jacket and visible injuries to her face.”
The woman told the officer that Gill had picked her up Sunday evening to go for a walk. He then took her to a wooded area off Unaka Springs Road later identified as Gulf Hole, where Taylor and Adams joined them, and Adams told her she was going to kill her for talking about her behind her back. She said Adams then hit her in the head with a rock, and Taylor and Gill then held her down while Adams continued to strike her, after which Gill gagged her and the three took her shoes, socks and coat and threw her over an embankment toward the river.
The woman said that she pretended to be dead until the three left, then crawled along the river bank for several hours until she reached a point across from the Nolichucky Gorge Campground and began yelling for help. Adams, Taylor and Gill were located in a traffic stop Monday night, and subsequently charged with attempted murder following a review of the evidence by the district attorney general’s office.
There are positive things happening in our region, however, as the Christmas holidays are in full swing and people in East Tennessee ready for the fun that ensues. If you need a good smile, visit our website and read about the local celebrations and acts of kindness arranged by the Boys and Girls Club, or regional law enforcement officers. See how local merchants are giving back, how animals are making children smile, and how you can get involved in your community. All this, and much more - it is the season, after all.