WASHINGTON, January 15, 2019 — Senators from the Washington area are urging President Trump to meet with some of the federal workers who have gone without paychecks during the longest partial government shutdown in United States history.
“We have spoken to federal workers who will not be able to afford to keep their home, purchase their medication, or put money in their child’s school lunch account if this shutdown continues,” said Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., in a Monday letter to the president.
“These civil servants are proud of their jobs, and this government shutdown is preventing them from doing important work for the American people.”
The four Senate Democrats noted that Trump has been itching to shut down the government over funding for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border since at least early last year when he tweeted about the need for a “good shutdown.”
“If you heard directly from [the federal workers], it would be clear that there is no such thing as a good government shutdown,” they wrote.
More than 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or forced to work without pay since December 22, when funding for numerous federal agencies expired after Trump upended a bipartisan funding deal.
That deal, which would have provided nearly $2 billion for new border security funding, drew the ire of right-wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
Responding to their demands, Trump declared that he would not sign the compromise funding bill, which the Senate passed unanimously shortly before Christmas.
The House has since moved to pass the Republican-authored appropriations bills which the upper chamber had approved by voice vote not one month ago.
Enough Senate Republicans have expressed support for reopening the government that the bills would easily pass the Senate if brought up for a vote, but the legislation has so far gotten a cool reception in the chamber that had birthed it, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, refusing to bring any funding bill to the floor without Trump’s permission.
Moreover, negotiations toward resolving the impasse have been non-existent since the president walked out of a meeting between Democratic and Republican leaders of both chambers last week.
The walkout occurred after Pelosi refused to accede to Trump’s demand for approximately $5 billion to pay for the border wall he once claimed would be paid for by Mexico.
Trump’s feint toward bipartisanship falls flat
With both sides deeply dug in and the shutdown entering its 25th day, the president on Tuesday attempted to make an end-run around the House’s newly-installed Democratic leadership by inviting a number of House Democrats to the White House for lunch. Not among those invited, however, was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., or any other member of her leadership team.
White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp touted the invitations as evidence that the president was willing to bypass an allegedly unwilling-to-negotiate leadership team to work directly with “rank-and-file Democrats,” presumably in the hope that those hailing from conservative-leaning swing districts would be more receptive to the president’s unwavering demands.
Unfortunately for Trump, none of the five Democrats who received invitations took the president up on his offer.
Among those turning down the chance to participate in what would have amounted to a bipartisan photo opportunity was Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.
“I continue to believe the Senate should pass and the President should sign the bills reopening government that the House already passed,” Murphy said in a statement.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assailed Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer for allegedly being unwilling to negotiate, while the president and his team “are working hard to find solutions to solve the humanitarian and national security crisis at the border and reopen the government.”