U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., who represents the 8th District of Virginia that includes the City of Falls Church, joined colleagues from other D.C.-area districts at a press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday to denounce the ongoing federal government shutdown for the damage it’s doing to 800,000 federal employees, including many in this region, who by this Friday will suffer the loss of a full paycheck.
He noted that thousands of government contract employees are also being affected.
Beyer, a Falls Church businessman, is the sponsor of a bill to ensure full pay of all impacted employees retroactively, and was among the strongest critics of the move by President Donald Trump to impose the shutdown, now in its 19th day, in a desperate move to win almost $6 billion in Congressional funding for a wall on the southwest border of the U.S. that most experts insist is unnecessary and a fabulous waste of money.
At the press conference Wednesday, Beyer called Trump’s wall idea “a fifth century wall that can be overcome by a ladder,” and he assailed Trump for not even mentioning federal employees in his nine-minute address to the nation carried on all the major TV networks Tuesday night. “There is a crisis, but it’s not the wall,” he said. “It’s the shutdown.”
He said that many unpaid federal employees are having to resort to tapping their retirement funds to make ends meet, and that they will face significant penalties they will have to pay for because of that.
Northern Virginia Democratic congressmen Gerry Connolly of Fairfax County’s 11th District and the newly-elected Jennifer Wexton of the 10th District joined Beyer at the press conference, along with congressmen from Maryland and Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton from D.C.
At the Falls Church City Council work session Monday night, City Manager Wyatt Shields was asked about the impact of the shutdown on the City. While he said there was no perceptible impact yet in terms of services provided by the City, the lost income to federal employees who live in the City will certainly have an impact “that we’re going to have to monitor closely.”
In response to an inquiry from the News-Press, City Hall spokesman Susan Finarelli said, “We don’t seem to have stats on how many residents are employed by the federal government.” She added, “Our Housing and Human Services Department has been contacted by a few people looking for assistance. Unfortunately, there’s no financial assistance available from the City in this case. Staff have been referring callers to the suggestions laid out by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and contact information for local food banks.”
Concerning the shutdown, President Trump said yesterday, “This is not a fight I wanted. I didn’t want this fight. This is about the people of our country, and we have to do what’s right at our border and many other places. Human trafficking is not going to stop if we don’t have a steel barrier or a concrete barrier.”
His comments came following the regional Democrats’ press conference, and Beyer’s comments, and he said, “They say it’s a medieval solution (a wall). It’s true. It’s medieval because it worked then and it works even better now.”
U.S. Rep. Connolly, speaking at the Democrats’ press conference yesterday, called the shutdown “madness” and that furloughed federal employees are “pawns in a bigger game” defined by the “racist, bigoted and tempestuous remarks” made by Trump in his TV address Tuesday, which he called “one of the most sordid moments in the history of the Oval Office.”
He said the shutdown is “a violation of the contract between the American public and the government they pay for with their taxes.” The general public is being denied public health services, food assistance, law enforcement, vehicle safety, housing and IRS services.
“We will not be held hostage as pawns in a fight over Trump’s phony promises,” he said.
On Sunday at an event in Vienna, Connolly assailed the “anti-immigrant” posture that the Republican Party, exemplified by Trump’s fixation on a southwest border wall, has adopted.
“I have attended 26 naturalization ceremonies,” he said, noting that he, himself, is the grandson of an invalid woman who came to America in 1920. He said that whereas only three percent of the population of Fairfax County was foreign-born 30 years ago, now it is 30 percent, and the result has been a county with the third highest household income of any jurisdiction in the U.S., with some of the finest schools and lowest dropout rates of any system in the country, and with the lowest crime rate among the top 100 jurisdictions in the country.”
Meanwhile, according to a poll reported in Politico, “Nearly two-thirds, 65 percent, say the president shouldn’t shut down the government to achieve policy goals, while only 22 percent say a temporary shutdown is acceptable to change policy.”