edited on 1/24/19 – see bold below.
End the Shutdown, Mr. President
The government shutdown has now been going on for over a month – it’s officially the longest in U.S. history. The negative economic effects are mounting and working families are suffering. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors in California and across the nation are furloughed or working without pay, worried about how to afford their mortgage or rent.
Whether or not you have personally experienced the consequences of the shutdown as a federal employee or contractor, it’s important to understand the broader impact of such a large part of the federal government being closed or at limited capacity.
Most significantly, the safety and well-being of people in California and across the nation may be put at risk. Air traffic controllers and TSA agents are working without a paycheck, performing their duties and protecting lives even as they worry about how they’re going to pay their rent or put food on the table for their families.
Every day, the women and men of the U.S. Coast Guard protect our coastline and waterways to defend the security of our nation. Because of the ongoing shutdown, 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without their paychecks while they continue to serve our country. The longer the shutdown continues, the more likely it is to hinder the Coast Guard’s mission readiness.
National parks are closed because so many forest service employees have been furloughed. Right now, no federal services are being provided in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The visitor center is closed, along with all other Santa Monica Mountains sites that remain off limits due to damage from the Woolsey wildfire. Other parks across the nation have turned to volunteers for help as they deal with vandalism and trash pileup.
And on the heels of one of our worst fire seasons in history, fire risks are exacerbated by the prolonged shutdown. Most of California’s forests exist on federal lands, and the shutdown is straining resources and management, forcing state and local firefighting crews to go without training and strategy meetings needed to mitigate fires. Simultaneously, routine clearing and thinning of forest lands remain largely on hold. Missing this critical window in the winter months could also put lives at risk. We’ve seen the consequences when necessary precautions to prevent wildfires are put on hold: homes are destroyed, and lives are lost.
But of course, the shutdown is taking its most direct toll on the federal workers themselves. Some are unable to pay their mortgage – others can’t afford to buy groceries for their family, medicine or other essentials, and still others are relying on charity to get by. This will only worsen as the shutdown continues.
That’s why I have made every effort to support bills in the House to re-open the government and why I have asked that my own salary not be paid until the shutdown ends and federal employees get their own checks.
Car payments, rent and mortgages, food and medicine bills do not distinguish by party. This shutdown hurts Democrats, Republicans, independents, and everyone else. We cannot continue this practice in which a small group of members of Congress or, in this case the President himself, holds the government hostage if they cannot get the votes they need to support an unpopular priority.
The solution isn’t hard and could be accomplished tomorrow if the President would stop using the pain he is inflicting on federal workers as a bludgeon. We can pass a short-term spending package and continue negotiating on border security – something both parties support – during the interim. We can come to a deal, and do it without taking hundreds of thousands of working families hostage. The impacts of the shutdown have been enormously detrimental across the nation, and I’ll continue to do everything I can to put an end to it. My colleagues and I have voted 11 times to immediately reopen the federal government and ensure workers are paid.
This is no way to run a government. It’s time to end this shutdown, Mr. President.