During Friday’s Democratic Weekly Address, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) stated that as Congress tries to iron out a bipartisan border security agreement, “It is important that the president allow Congress to do its work without interference.”
“Hi. I’m Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.
Shutting down the federal government is never a good idea. It shakes confidence in our country, rattles the economy, and hurts hard-working employees, as well as millions of individual families and businesses across the country who rely on or interact with some facet of the federal government every day.
This isn’t hyperbole. We all saw it firsthand.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the recently ended 35-day shutdown reduced economic activity in our country by $11 billion – and nearly $3 billion of that money will never be recovered.
Consumer confidence also plummeted, by a record 16 points over the last quarter, owing greatly to the shutdown.
The growing disruption to our air traffic system, increasing public health risks as food inspections ceased, and immense damage to our national park system were only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
What’s worse, the historic shutdown of our federal government never should have happened.
In December, the Senate passed a short-term measure to fully fund the government, which included robust funding for border security. The House of Representatives was going to approve it.
Only then did the president – goaded by conservative talking heads – suddenly slam the brakes and shut down the government to salvage what was left of his medieval wall.
It was for his wall that the president put our national security at risk every time he directed the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, to block reopening the federal government.
I would like to deeply thank the 800,000 federal workers and the millions of service contractors whom the shutdown hurt most directly.
These women and men were holding the bare bones of government together without pay, working on behalf of the American people in positions that are stressful on a normal day. Or they were locked out on furlough, with the stress of no pay and no idea when they could get back on the job serving the American people. Either way, their struggle to make ends meet was real.
Nearly 80 percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and federal workers are no different from their neighbors in this respect. While Congress was able to guarantee back pay for federal workers, the promise of a paycheck at some future unknown date did nothing to pay for groceries or put gas in their cars.
During the shutdown, I met with workers from Maryland, and representatives of workers nationwide, who had to forgo doctor visits because they could not afford the copay. I talked with personnel at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport who were contemplating temp jobs to pay their bills. I heard from people with disabilities, employed by the government in entry-level jobs, who were distraught that they would lose their health insurance – and their independence. I also met with small business owners, many of which had nothing to do with the federal government, but the shutdown stopped their work, too.
Even now that the government is back to work, service contractors – the cleaning crews, security guards, and others who make federal buildings across the country run efficiently – may never fully recover. We are working to expedite legislation that would provide lost wages for these low-wage contractors, but they and the businesses who employ them may never fully recoup lost funds.
The hardship caused by this Trump Shutdown will take months and years to overcome. For many the scars of financial uncertainty will remain indefinitely.
Never in my life did I ever think I would see federal workers lining up for a foodbank or soup kitchen. But, sadly, it happened.
To all those who donated and distributed free groceries or hosted a hot meal for struggling federal workers, you have my gratitude. To all who extended grace periods or allowed for a skipped payment, thank you, too.
Now back to the wall.
Democrats have always supported comprehensive border security solutions. What we do not support are one-off ideas that are more tweet than policy. To the president, it has been all about an absurd campaign promise rather than using taxpayer resources appropriately to protect our borders.
We have long agreed with Republicans that our immigration system is broken and we need a comprehensive, bipartisan solution to border security. It is why, in 2013, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive border security plan.
We think we can do it again, guided by the experts who have studied what can be the most useful at different locations along the southern border and all ports of entry.
I believe that we can find a reasonable, comprehensive plan that will keep our nation secure.
The Trump Shutdown was eye-opening. After 35 days, a greater number of Americans have a better appreciation for the hard work done by our federal workforce in support of our national and economic security, public health, and daily lives.
I was proud to work with Democratic and Republican colleagues to find a path to reopen government and to support a true, bipartisan package on border security. It is important that the president allow Congress to do its work without interference. We all pledged to engage in good faith negotiations on border security now that the federal government has reopened. Americans want us to come together to protect our country. Now we must do just that.”