Union workers demonstrate against the government shutdown on Thursday in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The Jan. 7 front-page article “Shutdown’s pain spreads widely” highlighted the widening turmoil created by the partial lapse in federal government operations. None of this is necessary. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed that governments are instituted to secure citizens’ “unalienable Rights.” The Constitution was framed to “establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.” Neither allowed for a government timeout. And requiring government officials to work without pay amounts to the indentured servitude banned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

Once the suspension of government services has ended, Congress should enact legislation to ensure that this uniquely American travesty does not recur. Such legislation would stipulate that if new appropriations are not enacted by the beginning of any fiscal year, the funding levels of the previous year would remain valid until or unless Congress increased or decreased those levels.

A. Ross Johnson, Vienna

The inability of our elected leaders to keep the federal government fully open is appalling. I am proud of my work as a federal employee serving the country I love. Now that the government is partially shut down, many federal workers, forced to wait for the government to reopen, can no longer provide the services our fellow Americans rely on.

Federal workers and their families are forced to stretch their pennies until the shutdown is over. Government employees are navigating this difficult time without guaranteed back pay. Bills arrive even if paychecks don’t, and many federal employees are being forced to make difficult financial decisions to make ends meet.

Our legislators in Congress should stop playing political games with our government’s services and those who provide them. Bipartisan-supported appropriations legislation to reopen the government should not be held hostage until an agreement is reached over border security funding. Legislators and the president must reach consensus immediately so committed federal employees throughout the nation and right here at home can earn their livelihoods and get back to work for our country.

Gary Roundtree, Gwynn Oak, Md.

The writer is president of the Maryland Federation of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.

If there is a security or humanitarian crisis at the United States’ border with Mexico, why have the governors of the four states directly connected with this border — California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas — not declared states of emergency? 

Before the November elections, three of the four governors of these states (New Mexico, Texas and Arizona) were Republicans, and no state of emergency was declared. States of emergency were declared in some of these states because of floods and wildfires over the past two years, but no border security or humanitarian emergency funds were requested for a state of emergency. 

If no state of emergency or funds were requested from the federal government, one must assume that the areas directly affected by the border have other issues they consider more serious.

Larry Koffer, Herndon