On Day 2 of the federal government shutdown, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said Sunday it’s time for her congressional colleagues to revisit their high school American government classes.

Congress is independent from the presidency, she said, a fact that seems to sometimes be forgotten by Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“The major sticking point is Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell saying we have to wait for the president to figure out what his positions are,” Hirono told Civil Beat in a telephone interview. “I don’t know why they don’t think Congress should act like a separate branch of government, which we are.”

Senator Mazie Hirono inour editorial board1.
Sen. Mazie Hirono thinks President Trump will sign any bill Congress sends him to end the shutdown. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

There appears to be bipartisan support to take on issues such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but Hirono said Republicans are wary of making any decisions without the express blessing of the president.

That’s a dangerous proposition, she said, because Donald Trump often doesn’t seem to know what he wants when it comes to nuanced policy decisions, and has a history of changing his mind.

“I believe that when we send a bill to the president he will sign it,” Hirono said. “Because he really doesn’t have much going in terms of where he is on just about anything.”

Hawaii’s other U.S. senator, Brian Schatz, issued a statement Sunday in which he called on Republicans to join Democrats in passing legislation to continue paying military service members during the shutdown.

Schatz said:

Our military servicemembers and their families should not be punished simply because this White House can’t get it together to make a deal. These brave men and women don’t stop protecting our country just because the government shuts down. Those who serve our country deserve the pay they have earned.

Schatz said the bill he is co-sponsoring also helps ensure that Department of Defense civilian employees directly supporting military personnel and operations can continue working and receiving compensation.

Meanwhile, Senate moderates in both parties were searching for a solution to the partisan stalemate as they raced toward a showdown vote scheduled for noon Monday EST.

There were no indications that a firm agreement had been reached, or that leaders of either party or the White House were on board.

Hirono’s office issued a statement Sunday saying she will donate any pay she’s due to receive during the government shutdown to 14 community health centers in Hawaii.

Hirono, whose annual salary is $174,000, said she also donated her salary during the last government shutdown in 2013 that lasted nearly two weeks.

Schatz issued another statement Friday night, this one specifically about the paycheck issue:

I am giving everything I’ve got to end this shutdown, and I am working to achieve a bipartisan solution. I will continue to accept my salary as I work to get the government back up and running. This shutdown is irresponsible, and I am determined to help end it as soon as possible.

Hawaii U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa said in a joint statement Saturday that they will not accept their salaries during the shutdown.

“The failure to pass a year-long budget and allowing the government to shutdown while playing political football with issues of humanity is inexcusable,” Gabbard said in a statement.

About the Author