Federal Workers Express Outrage As Trump Shutdown Continues
On Christmas day, President Trump announced that a government shutdown would continue until Congress agreed to fund a Southern border wall.
“I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen,” he told reporters in an Oval Office appearance on Christmas morning. “I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it. I’ll call it whatever they want. But it’s all the same thing. It’s a barrier from people pouring into our country.”
This statement came before the nation learned of the Christmas Day death of another migrant child in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Trump’s demand for congressional funding of a border wall has caused a stalemate, resulting in a partial government shutdown that began early Saturday morning.
Earlier this month, Trump said he would be “proud” to shut down the government, in a meeting with soon-to-be Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
The scope of impact on federal workers is far-reaching. Pelosi wrote of the Trump Shutdown, “More than 800,000 federal employees will be forced to go without pay over the holidays – including 420,000 federal employees who still have to show up to work.”
Trump told reporters on Christmas, without offering any evidence, “Many of those workers have said to me — communicated — stay out until you get the funding for the wall,” he said. “These federal workers want the wall.”
But the head of the country’s largest federal workers’ union, The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents more than 700,000 federal employees, said there “should be no confusion” about whether its members want the government to reopen.
AFGE President Jeffrey David Cox Sr. said in a statement, “They are eager to get back to work,” adding, “They unequivocally oppose using shutdowns as a means of resolving policy disputes. This is not about a wall, this is about 800,000 real people with real families and real bills to pay.”
People who are experiencing repercussions of the Trump Shutdown are using the hashtag #ShutdownStories to discuss its consequences.
The Washington Post reported on one of the federal employees: “Lila Johnson, 71, has worked as a cleaner at the State Department for two decades, sweeping floors and scrubbing bathrooms for $21 an hour. Now she’s worried about making her rent, car and life insurance payments… ‘It’s Christmastime,’ Johnson said. ‘People need their money.’”
Mikie Sherrill, former Navy pilot and Congresswoman-elect from New Jersey tweeted on Saturday:
I’ve been a federal employee and know the impact a shutdown has on families. Right now ~750,000 federal employees are heading into the holidays without paychecks. No elected official should ever be “proud to shut down the government” at the expense of hardworking public servants.
— Mikie Sherrill (@MikieSherrill) December 22, 2018
On Christmas Eve, as the shutdown entered its third day, Trump began the day by tweeting:
Virtually every Democrat we are dealing with today strongly supported a Border Wall or Fence. It was only when I made it an important part of my campaign, because people and drugs were pouring into our Country unchecked, that they turned against it. Desperately needed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2018
Democratic lawmakers have stood firm, unwilling to accede to the president’s demand for $5 billion to build a border wall.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said Democrats would approve funding for border security — but not for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“We’re absolutely willing to fund border security,” Merkley said Sunday morning on ABC’s This Week.
Candidate Trump campaigned on the promise of building the border wall. However, a CBS News poll from mid-November found that a majority — 59 percent of Americans — oppose building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of President Trump’s fear-mongering narratives about immigrants have been debunked, including his claims of their criminality. And when it comes to the narrative that they are freeloaders, undocumented immigrants actually pay taxes. According to IRS data from 2015, undocumented workers in the U.S. paid $23.6 billion in income taxes.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) clarified Trump’s motivation. She tweeted, with a screenshot of Politico reporting, circling a quote from a former White House official:
And herein lies the truth…it has never been about border security or even the damn wall. It’s all about the anti-immigrant message to rile up a xenophobic base. so let’s say it again: #NoBorderWall pic.twitter.com/lH82pPcWs3
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) December 24, 2018
Trump’s wall is “deeply rooted in xenophobia,” Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN), explained Thursday on Dean Obeidallah’s SiriusXM radio show.
As Obeidallah wrote for CNN: “Omar, who will make history as both the first Somali refugee and the first Muslim-American female to wear a hijab in Congress, added, ‘there are folks on the right, political pundits on TV shows talking about how immigrants make this country dirty and poor and more dangerous.’ (She was referring to recent inflammatory comments about immigrants by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.)”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted:
-Violent crime is down
-Property crime is down
-Immigrants, both documented & undocumented, commit less crime than native born citizens
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 23, 2018
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted:
There are a million reasons why $5B for a wall is a ludicrous demand to shut down the government over.
But here’s maybe the best one: the 2017/2018 budgets gave Trump billions for border upgrades. He’s spent ALMOST NONE of it. 6%.
How about spending the money you have first?
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 23, 2018
Trump’s incoming acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said the government shutdown could continue into next year.
Mulvaney had previously called the proposal for a border wall “absurd and almost childish,” as a South Carolina congressman in 2015.
On January 3rd, new members of Congress will take office, with Democrats assuming the majority in the House of Representatives.
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) December 22, 2018
Candidate Trump repeatedly assured his supporters that Mexico would pay for construction of a border wall.
Earlier this month, Trump tweeted: “Mexico is paying (indirectly) for the Wall through the new USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA!”
However, the new trade agreement is yet to be approved by Congress — and Trump’s premise is flimsy. As NPR reported: “Asked about possible economic growth as a result of the USMCA bringing in more tax revenue, Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said, ‘We have no guarantee that that would happen including because the USMCA is first of all not all that different from NAFTA.’”
On Christmas Eve, Trump tweeted:
The Wall is different than the 25 Billion Dollars in Border Security. The complete Wall will be built with the Shutdown money plus funds already in hand. The reporting has been inaccurate on the point. The problem is, without the Wall, much of the rest of Dollars are wasted!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2018
It isn’t clear what the president was referring to as “Shutdown money.” Government shutdowns cost money. In late 2017, analysts projected a government shutdown would cost the U.S. economy $6.5 billion per week, according to an S&P Global report.
Walter Shaub, former Director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted:
A shutdown is when there is no money. There is no “shutdown money.”
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) December 24, 2018
Ted Lieu tweeted:
Note to @realDonaldTrump: You don’t save money with your #TrumpShutdown. In 2013, a 16 day Shutdown cost the economy $24 billion. Border agents are working without pay. But Dems will ensure they get back pay.
Get a briefing on how a Shutdown works. We can’t afford amateur hour. https://t.co/oFjr11m5QN
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 24, 2018
Trump’s right-wing base continues to exert pressure on the president to follow through on his promise to build the border wall.
Far-right commentator Ann Coulter said Trump risked becoming a “joke presidency who scammed the American people” if he wasn’t able to get the wall built, and said she wouldn’t vote for him in 2020 if he didn’t.
During his surprise trip to Iraq on Wednesday to meet with U.S. troops, Trump defended the government shutdown and said he will do “whatever it takes” to get funding for the border wall.
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