Walden votes to reopen government

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, Thursday joined six other GOP lawmakers to vote for a spending package designed to reopen most government agencies. (The Enterprise/File).

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S Rep Greg Walden, R-Hood River, broke from his party Thursday on a vote to reopen the federal government.

Walden joined six other Republicans in the House voting for a spending measure introduced by Democrats to fund seven agencies that have been closed since Dec. 22.

Walden voted against a separate measure that would have funded the Department of Homeland Security. Funding for a border wall – one of the pillars of President Donald Trump’s agenda – would come through the Department of Homeland Security and wasn’t included in the measure.

The House passed the funding package 241-190 margin. The package, though, will probably founder in the Senate where Republicans hold eight-seat edge over Democrats.

“I think it was the right vote and the right vote for my district,” Walden told the Malheur Enterprise Friday.

Walden said a debate over a border wall funding is appropriate but is a separate discussion from funding other federal agencies.

Walden, seen by many as one of Trump’s strongest supporters, said his vote had little to do with the ongoing debate over a border wall.

“I don’t understand why someone who is helping maintain Crater Lake National Park or working at the Vale BLM should be furloughed and not paid for their services not rendered while Donald Trump, (Nancy) Pelosi and (Chuck) Schumer argue about how the wall will be funded,” said Walden.

Pelosi, a Democrat, was elected to be speaker of the House Thursday. Schumer, a Democrat, is the senior senator from New York and the Senate minority leader.

“I want to fund the wall. I am for border security,” Walden said.

Walden, though, said that it didn’t make sense “to keep these other agencies shuttered while we have a debate about border security.”

Walden acknowledged the government shutdown primarily impacts agencies in his district like the BLM and the Forest Service.

“They are taking the brunt of this. My view is we shouldn’t close the Burns and Vale BLM and Fish and Wildlife, or shut down work that will affect cattle ranchers,” said Walden.

Placing federal workers on furlough in his district doesn’t make sense, Walden said.

 “I look at our district and the people affected – both the workers and people trying to get finished whatever they are working on – and neither one is benefited with the doors closed and the lights off,” said Walden.

Walden said there is no end in sight for the government shut down.

“In eastern Oregon, we have some box canyons and it seems to me, on this issue, everyone went driving up a box canyon and no one asked ‘how are you getting out of this?’” said Walden.

Walden said the clock is ticking on perception about politicians while the shutdown lingers.

“You start the first week back after the new year and, especially into next week, and people are not going to get paid. And people are going to get frustrated that politicians can’t get their act together and that is where we will be,” said Walden.

Walden was elected to the Congress in 1998 and is the only Republican of Oregon’s congressional delegation.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.