Rep. Bustos rips 'Trump shutdown' over Farm Bill

Congresswoman says government shutdown puts ‘economic stress’ on farmers

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos accuses President Trump of playing “a game of chicken” with the ongoing government shutdown, which places “economic stress” on farmers. (U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos)

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos accuses President Trump of playing “a game of chicken” with the ongoing government shutdown, which places “economic stress” on farmers. (U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos)

By Ted Cox

After Congress passed a belated Farm Bill late last year, implementation has been delayed by the partial government shutdown imposed by President Trump and enforced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos warned this week: “Illinois farmers already face enough uncertainty from Mother Nature and the president’s reckless trade war — but now, the Trump shutdown is causing even more economic stress for producers as they weather a struggling farm economy. This may be a game of chicken for the president but this might mean the family farm for producers in Illinois.”

On Tuesday, she took to Trump’s favorite social media to tweet: “Farmers can’t be used as bargaining chips in the #TrumpShutdown.”

Bustos pointed out when Trump shut the government down last month that it could halt “loans to rural communities,” as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is involved in the partial shutdown. Farmers were already anxious about the Farm Bill, which passed and was signed into law by President Trump almost three months after the previous bill expired. The government shut down over Trump’s demands for a $5 billion border wall with Mexico only two days later.

“Let’s be clear,” Bustos said at the time, “this government shutdown, driven by House Republicans and the president, was completely avoidable. Washington’s constant culture of failure and ineffectiveness was on full display this week — and families across the heartland are understandably frustrated. The American people deserve better than relentless dysfunction and politicians who are more interested in scoring political points than executing the basic functions of government.”

Although Trump has recently tried to blame Democrats for the shutdown, Bustos cited Trump’s own statements in December that “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down,” following a contentious White House meeting with Democratic congressional leaders.

Bustos added, “I will continue working to bring both sides together to find solutions and bring the shutdown to an end as quickly as possible,” and last week she touted how the newly seated Democratic majority in the House immediately moved to pass bills previously passed by the Senate to fund the government.

McConnell, however, has refused to allow a vote on those measures in the new Congress in defense of Trump’s shutdown.

Trump scheduled a nationwide TV address for 8 p.m. Tuesday on the need for a wall along the Mexican border.

Bustos, of East Moline, issued a statement last week saying, “Right now, there are 800,000 hardworking men and women either furloughed or working without pay because the White House and Washington Republicans chose to play political games rather than fulfill their basic responsibility to keep the government functioning. Families out there are hurting because of this stunt, and I’m pleased that the new House Democratic majority took immediate action to bring this needless government shutdown to an end. FBI agents, border-patrol officers and airport security officials shouldn’t have to go to work and wonder if they can make next month’s rent — they deserve better from Washington.

“Let’s not mince words,” she added, “this was political theater at its worst and an entirely avoidable crisis manufactured by a temper tantrum in the Oval Office. The president cannot tweet his way out of the shutdown — he needs to work with both parties to find solutions. And while he continues to sow chaos at the expense of ordinary Americans, we are committed to governing responsibly and leading our country out of this mess. Two weeks ago, there was a bipartisan consensus to fund the government that every single Senator agreed to — nearly identical to the legislation we passed today — and I hope they will work with us in good faith to end the shutdown.”


“Here’s what we should all agree on: large portions of the government shouldn’t be shut down while there’s a debate on border security.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (One Illinois/Zachary Sigelko)

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin joined in the criticism last week, stating: “Let me be clear: Democrats support strong, effective border security. The type of border security that Democrats have long supported — including increased funding for technology — is what experts have said is needed and actually works. What doesn’t work is an ineffective, expensive, and medieval wall. But here’s what we should all agree on: large portions of the government shouldn’t be shut down while there’s a debate on border security.”

Bustos echoed that, saying: “As the wife of a sheriff, I fully understand that we can and must keep our communities safe — and I’ve always supported both comprehensive immigration reform and tough, effective strategies to secure our borders. But because of President Trump’s shutdown, border-patrol agents aren’t even being paid for their work — that’s just wrong. As experts have long said, we ought to invest in 21st-century solutions to secure the border — not an outdated, ineffective and fiscally irresponsible wall as the president has proposed.”

On Monday, Durbin drew attention to how the shutdown had furloughed most of the employees at the Peoria Ag Lab as they attempt to find solutions to bacteria resistant to antibiotics. He followed that Tuesday by appearing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to stand with Transportation Security Administration workers who are on the job but not being paid during the government shutdown.

The American Farm Bureau said Monday that the government shutdown could impact farmers as they attempt to plan for spring planting.

Illinois Farm Bureau Executive Director Mark Gebhards warned Tuesday that “it’s anybody’s guess” how long the shutdown will last, and that it could throw a wrench into enrollment periods for the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs.

“We were so elated that we were able to get that bill finished, the president signed it before the end of the calendar year,” Gebhards said. “There is flexibility built into this bill for guys to make decisions around ARC and PLC, (but) those are things that obviously have to happen in the near term.”

Gebhards pointed to the approaching Jan. 15 deadline for the Market Facilitation Program, and the second round of $5 billion set up to pay farmers reparations in Trump’s trade war. He said he’s heard talk of an extension, but hasn’t been able to confirm that with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Perdue announced later Tuesday that the deadline would be extended a few weeks, but without setting a firm date.

Conservative newspaper columnist George Will cheered Bustos for her “well-honed political intuition” in a piece published Tuesday in the Chicago Tribune. He pointed out that Bustos, recently named head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, won re-election by 24 percentage points in a district that went for Trump in 2016.