The partial shutdown of the United States’ federal government has lasted for four and a half weeks, with no end in sight. Roughly 800,000 federal workers either remain furloughed or continue to report for work not knowing when they will be paid again, including employees of federal prisons. And, in Kentucky, a union of prison officials has responded with a billboard aimed at Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The billboard declares, “Violent offenders in NY prisons ARE getting paid. Law enforcement officers ARE NOT. McConnell: End The SHUTDOWN NOW.”
The billboard came from the Council of Prison Locals (CPL), which is part of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). And PBS’ Lisa Desjardins has reported, on Twitter, that this is only one of the billboards CPL has in mind to address the shutdown.
Desjardins posted, “SHUTDOWN ADS: KY prison officers’ union (part of AFGE) has put up billboards like this in the state to get @senatemajldr McConnell’s attention. I’m told there are four now, with plans for eight more.”
The fact that the billboard in Kentucky mentions McConnell rather than President Donald Trump is not insignificant. Although Trump, more than anyone, is responsible for the shutdown, McConnell has played a key role in it as well. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives under Speaker Nancy Pelosi has passed spending bills that would reopen the federal government immediately, but they don’t include funding for the U.S./Mexico border wall that Trump is demanding—and McConnell has refused to consider them.
The Senate majority leader, who is up for reelection in Kentucky in 2020, is obviously fearful of alienating Trump’s far-right base and risking a GOP primary challenge in a red state. And he continues to side with the president on the shutdown, pointing the finger at Democrats and resisting the idea of reopening the federal government by overriding a likely Trump veto of a spending bill.