Hundreds of federal employees gathered outside the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 10 to rally for an end to the partial government shutdown that has lasted for nearly three weeks.
Employee union leaders and members of Congress called on Senate leadership to bring forward and pass funding legislation that has already been approved by the House.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re out in the cold ... we’re out in the cold voluntarily because we care about running government for the people. But the president is putting people out in the cold without asking ‘by your leave,'" said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Democratic members of the Senate tried unsuccessfully earlier that day to press for votes on funding legislation, but were ultimately shot down by Republican leadership.
“Earlier today, under the leadership of Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, all of the Democrats came to the Senate floor and said, ‘Pass the House bill, open our government.’ You want to fight about border security? We’ll have that discussion, but do not hold 800,000 people’s lives as political pawns," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
“Mitch McConnell said he can’t do that. Mitch McConnell said he can’t do anything that the president won’t sign. I would point out that the Constitution of the United States of America says that Congress is an independent branch of government.”
Warner called for both houses of Congress to consider passing the funding legislation under a two-thirds majority vote, which would override the veto that President Donald Trump has said he will use if the funding legislation gets to his desk.
“This is a shutdown started by President Trump, but every day that it goes on Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans are accomplices in this government shutdown. And the reason is they have the power, today, to reopen the government," said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
Speakers also read out statements Sen, McConnell made in the face of an earlier government shutdown as motivation to pass funding legislation now.
“You said, senator, that ‘American people will see which senator votes to shove aside veterans and military families and vulnerable children, holding an entire country hostage.’ You said, senator, ‘It is completely unfair and uncompassionate to filibuster government funding and harming our troops to crowd out every other priority.’ I repeat those words to you, senator. Do you have any decency?” said Eric Young, national president of the American Federation of Government Employee Council of Prison Locals.
Should Congress fail to pass funding legislation with back pay for federal employees by the end of legislative sessions on Friday, federal employees will experience their first empty paychecks of the shutdown.
“Friday we’re going to do something we haven’t done in a long time in this country. Our workers, contractors, businesses that work near our parks and, particularly, the 800,000 federal employees aren’t going to get your paycheck. That is morally wrong, that is economically wrong, and we must not let that happen,” said Warner.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.