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Sen. Warner to Senate: Reopen the government

mark warnerU.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in calling for the Senate to vote on House-passed spending bills that would reopen the government immediately and allow hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors to go back to work.

In his floor remarks, Sen. Warner noted that federal workers are bearing the brunt of the government shutdown. Already into its 18th day, the shutdown has furloughed more than 380,000 federal workers and more than 450,000 are working without pay.

While President Trump continues to hold federal workers hostage to secure $5.7 billion in border wall funding, Sen. Warner warned that many federal employees tasked with protecting the nation’s borders and vulnerable points of entry – which includes TSA agents and the U.S. Coast Guard – continue to work without pay.

Sen. Warner continues to be outspoken against President Trump’s use of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic. To reduce the financial hardships caused by the shutdown, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to secure back pay for federal workers and pledged to introduce legislation to reimburse low-wage federal contractors who have gone without pay during the shutdown.

Transcript of Warner remarks

Mr. President, I want to join my colleagues from Maryland and my friend, the Senator from Virginia as well, to speak out on this manufactured crisis.

This President is holding 800,000 federal workers hostage. Folks who are going to work, some of them without pay, others who are furloughed, as has been mentioned, this is not just affecting federal workers. Senator Kaine and I have been talking to a number of contractors and small business owners, a couple of them who are closing their doors this week because they have now gone for weeks without being paid. You can’t put a business back together after you’ve closed your doors. So the 800,000 federal employees, the contractors and there are a slew of other folks who are already immediately affected.

The complete lack of thought this administration had in the shutdown, where they said ‘we’re going to make it seem not like a shutdown so we are going to leave the parks open.’ Now we see destruction going on in our parks. We see in our state where Shenandoah National Park has trash overfilling, we have the battlefields where people have also had inappropriate activities, and we’ve seen as well a whole slew of businesses that depend upon a high volume of tourist travel during the holidays. None of that should have taken place.

Mr. President, I also wonder whether Donald Trump, who says this is about security, well if this is about security we ought to make sure that our Coast Guard is paid. We ought to make sure our TSA agents are paid. We are seeing dramatic numbers of folks calling in sick, dramatically reducing the ability to maintain security at our airports where frankly, most of our vulnerability on the border takes place.

That is going to get exponentially worse after Friday when these employees go without a paycheck. The fact of the matter is these workers don’t work for Donald Trump, they work for America. And we, echoing what my colleagues said, our first order of business should be making sure we get the government open.

The final point I want to make it is this: the heartlessness of this President and his comments about our federal workforce, that somehow they can manage through without a paycheck, that somehow they can negotiate with their landlord if they cannot pay the rent. Rather than Donald Trump putting on a political show tonight on TV and a political trip to the border tomorrow, I invite the President to come anywhere in Virginia, Maryland, or the District and sit down with federal employees an explain this crisis and why they are not getting paid.

So my hope is that, echoing what our Senators from Maryland said, the Senate should not be complicit in this. We need to reopen the government. We need to negotiate additional border security, I am all for it. But not holding hostage, literally, our federal employees and countless others.

With that I yield to Senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine.