By JASON RUITER | Capital
WASHINGTON - Federal employee unions and
members of Congress from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia -- all Democrats --
denounced House Republicans and lamented the financial pain of federal
employees caused by the government shutdown during a press conference outside
the Capitol Tuesday afternoon.
In a political game of chicken,
congressional Republicans sought this week to pass a spending bill that also
defunded the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Because Democrats refused
to budge and Republicans held fast on the legislation to defund Obamacare -- parts
of which went into effect Tuesday -- nearly 800,000 federal employees
were furloughed from work.
“We’re here because we’re concerned about
the operation of the United States government,” said House Minority Whip Steny
Hoyer, D-Mitchellville. “We represent a lot of federal employees” in our
Hoyer called Republicans “irrational” and
“unreasonable” and said that if members of Congress were a board of directors
in a public corporation, “stockholders would fire us.”
In addition to Hoyer, Rep. Elijah
Cummings, D-Baltimore; Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac; Democratic D.C. Delegate
Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., were surrounded by members
from several unions carrying signs that read “We Want To Work!”
“Many see this is as a beltway issue”
which is not true, said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury
Employees Union. “Eighty percent (of federal employees) work outside the
Polling conducted by Quinnipiac
University last week shows that although Americans are ambivalent about
Obamacare, three-fourths disapprove of using a government shutdown as political
“Republicans have dug themselves a hole,”
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville,
Maryland’s lone Republican member of Congress, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The voicemail in his Washington office had a message saying: “In case of a
lapse of appropriated funds…normal operations of the United States government
would be suspended until funding is restored...we may not be able to answer the
Harris released a statement Monday saying
he’d vote in favor of a resolution which would delay an individual mandate to
purchase an Obamacare health insurance package.
Octavia Hall, president of the American
Federation of Government Employees Local 1401 at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air
Facility in southern Maryland, showed up to work Tuesday, opened a letter,
and read that she wasn’t needed.
“To be honest, they always threaten to do
something like this. We were kind of in disbelief,” Hall said. Hall, who lives
in Hoyer’s district in Waldorf and has worked for the federal government for 20
years, lives paycheck to paycheck.
“That means I have no savings account.
Nothing set aside,” she said. “It really hit in reality. It changed the way I
think about life and how I spend my money and how I need to save more.”
Including Tuesday, Hall has been
furloughed seven days this year. She plans to look for a second job to offset
the costs and says her co-workers are in similar situations.
According to the Quinnipiac University
poll, 58 percent of Americans blame both parties for the gridlock in
Washington. Twenty-eight percent blame Republicans and 10 percent blame Democrats.
“I think everybody played a part in this,” Hall said. “We’re just like pawns.”