Eight House Democrats who represent the capital region, home to the biggest concentration of federal workers, denounced the shutdown on Wednesday and slammed President Trump.
During a news conference outside the Capitol, several members said their offices are being flooded with calls, emails and letters from constituents panicking about how they will pay their bills.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (Va.) said one furloughed worker told her they had to return Christmas presents they could no longer afford.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.) said a couple he represents will withdraw money from their retirement and kids’ college funds prematurely — paying a penalty — to cover basic needs.
Rep. Don Beyer (Va.) said he represents a disabled veteran who owns a small business dependent on government contractors and may have to lay off employees.
Each member ridiculed Trump’s desire to build a border wall to curb what he describes as a “crisis.”
“There is a crisis but it’s not the lack of a wall,” said Beyer, who represents about 80,000 federal workers and thousands of federal contractors. “Trump said a lot of words last night but not a single one of them was about the federal workforce.”
Republicans said Democrats are less concerned about federal workers then about objecting to Trump’s policies.
“If these Democrats were truly as concerned about federal employees as they claim, they’d vote for a bill containing funding for border security. But doing so would deprive them of a chance to ‘resist’ President Trump,” Garren Shipley, a spokesman for the National Republican Committee, said in a statement.
The local members represent more than 360,000 federal workers, but 80 percent of people who work for the government are scattered throughout the country, they said.
Trading their service for “a fifth century wall that can be overcome with a ladder” makes no sense, Beyer said.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) said Trump’s prime time address was riddled with “racist, bigoted, xenophobic rhetoric.”
It was “one of the most sordid moments in the history of the Oval Office, mimicking alt-right bigotry as a justification for shutting down the government,” he said.
Rep Jamie Raskin (Md.) plans to hold a rally Wednesday night in Silver Spring to highlight the stories of federal workers on furlough.
“President Trump has succeeded in doing what no foreign enemy of the United States has ever done, which is to shut down the government of the United States for several weeks to the disadvantage of our own citizens,” Raskin said.
Wexton’s office received at least 1,200 calls and emails over five days, an aide said.
Beyer, Connolly, Raskin and Wexton were joined by Maryland Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, John Sarbanes and David Trone, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s nonvoting representative.
Of the group, Norton, Wexton and Trone have said they will forego their salaries during the shutdown.
Connolly said he would not because “we’re not in the business of adding to the ranks of the unpaid. We’re in the business of getting everyone paid fairly.”
On Tuesday night Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tweeted, “I am disgusted by the lack of concern for hard-working employees who will go unpaid this week. No one in Congress or the White House should receive a paycheck until the shutdown ends. Marylanders and Americans should not have to suffer because of this nonsense. #DoYourJobs”