As the country entered the fourth week of the partial government shutdown, Colorado’s Democratic delegation to Congress had a unified message for Republican leadership: End the shutdown now. Discuss border security later.
U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette, Jason Crow, Joe Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet held a news conference Monday at Denver International Airport that overlooked airport security, where Transportation Security Administration workers served travelers without pay.
There are more than 15,000 federal employees that are furloughed or working without pay in Colorado.
The legislators emphasized that if the Democratic House majority and the Republican Senate majority work together, they can end the partial government shutdown without President Trump’s approval.
Like TSA, air traffic controllers are also required to work without pay during the shutdown. Josh Waggener, a union representative to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in Colorado, said colleagues have asked him about the legality of getting an additional job to pay the bills.
He pointed out that supplemental work is legal but inadvisable. Waggener said controllers need to be well-rested and prepared to perform their day job at full capacity.
“[This delegation] is for secure borders,” Crow said. “I spent two combat tours on the Afghan-Pakistan border so I know a thing or two about border security. We cannot allow our federal workforce and our veterans to be used as a bargaining tool as we have that discussion about what makes sense to secure our borders. It’s time to reopen the government.”
Perlmutter’s district includes the Denver Federal Center, which employs thousands of federal workers. He admonished the “temper tantrums” about border security and said government employees “shouldn't be the pawns of his political game.”
Perlmutter’s office is offering food and assistance information to affected employees.
Sherrie Kinard, an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency, said she is reconsidering her job because the government is “starting to become an unreliable employer.” Stability was one of her reasons for joining the federal workforce.
“I have two special needs kids that I have to support and get therapies and medications for,” she said. “I can’t be without a paycheck.”