On the 19th day of the government shutdown, our union and federal employees went to Capitol Hill to talk to reporters about how the shutdown has hurt employees and their families. We were joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The shutdown began Dec. 22, and President Trump has threated to drag it on for months or even years if Congress refuses to give him $5.6 billion to fund the border wall with Mexico.
“We oppose being held hostage. We oppose being collateral damage. We oppose the use of extortion instead of a reasonable debate,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. told the press conference.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised furloughed federal workers, calling them "VIPs, the people who make America work."
“Last night, the President spouted more malice and misinformation, appealing to fear instead of facts,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, referring to Trump’s speech at the White House. “The reality is that the president could end the Trump shutdown and reopen government today and he should.”
Since the shutdown began, more than 800,000 federal employees have been working without pay or locked out of work without pay. These Americans have bills to pay, and this shutdown has forced some to quit their jobs, seek a second job, or sell their belongings to feed their families.
Pelosi and Schumer support a plan to reopen the government and make the border wall funding a separate negotiation.
"To use them as hostages through a temper tantrum by the president is just so wrong, so unfair, so mean-spirited. It ought to end, and it ought to end now,” Schumer told the press conference.
When a reporter mentioned that Trump claimed federal employees are on his side and support the shutdown, the furloughed employees shook their heads.
"This is another example of the president being almost delusionary," Pelosi responded.
Passage of bills needed to reopen the government
Our union is urging the Senate and President Trump to stop taking American workers hostage and pass H.R. 21 and H.J. Res. 1 to reopen the government.
The House has already passed H.R. 21, a consolidated funding bill that funds most government agencies through the end of the 2019 fiscal year Sept. 30 and gives federal employees retroactive pay for the duration of the shutdown and a 1.9% pay raise in 2019.
It also passed H.J. Res. 1 that funds the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8.
President Trump, however, has threatened to veto the bills as they lack $5.6 billion in funding for the border wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has refused to bring the bills up for a vote because it doesn’t have the wall funding demanded by Trump.
“These Americans have families to feed and bills to pay, and it’s irresponsible to use them as political pawns for politics,” Cox added.