Selma Time-Journal Op-Ed: Our Federal Workers are not political pawns, Mr. President.
By Rep. Terri A. Sewell
In the Selma Times-Journal
Americans deserve a well-functioning Congress that works on their behalf. I know my constituents in Alabama’s 7th District did not send me to Washington to be a party to the problem, but to seek solutions. That is why I am working every day to reopen government and allow hardworking federal employees to work and ensure government services continue uninterrupted.
I voted to re-open the government and fund border security the moment Congress went into session on Jan. 3. Since then, I have voted an additional eight times to ensure our federal workers receive their due pay government gets back to work.
To be clear, I support investing in our nation’s border security. Just last summer, I voted for $1.6 billion to enhance our existing border security infrastructure and supported a bipartisan proposal to implement smart measures to ensure our Customs and Border Protection agents have the resources needed to effectively police the southern border. In July 2018, I went to the Texas border, toured detention centers and a port of entry, and met with border patrol agents there.
Democrats and Republicans agree: we need to invest in our strategic infrastructure – state-of-the-art technologies to detect tunnels; sensors and radars to spot moving people and objects; and drones equipped with the technology to surveil areas that otherwise would be difficult to monitor. Equally as important, we need to provide adequate resources to combat the entry of terrorists and criminals into our country through our airports and other borders.
So, when the President says that Democrats are against securing our southern border, he is being dishonest. However, real border security will not come in the form of a medieval brick-and-mortar wall.
What Republicans and the President do not seem to understand is that the irresponsible Trump shutdown is impacting the wellbeing of over 800,000 federal workers and their families who depend on a steady paycheck, and countless others who depend on essential government services affected by the shutdown.
For example, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is the largest employer in Pickens County, AL, which is located in my district. Those federal corrections officers are worried about being able to pay their monthly expenses, like their mortgages and essential health care costs. We also have countless other federal agencies impacted by the shutdown, including TSA, which impacts hardworking men and women in our airports, like agents in our Birmingham and Montgomery airports.
The negative side effects go on. The shutdown is having a rippling effect on local businesses all over the country, including those in the urban and rural parts of our district that depend on federal workers to keep their businesses open. Additionally, over 800,000 Alabamians rely on SNAP benefits to feed their families. If the shutdown continues, too many will be left without the support they need to put food on the table.
While it’s difficult for President Trump to understand why the average American can’t go without pay, the reality in Alabama is that many of my constituents live paycheck-to-paycheck regardless of how hard they work. Many are one financial emergency away from financial ruin. It is irresponsible that this Trump shutdown, now the longest in history, was completely avoidable.
The status quo is unacceptable. Federal workers are not political pawns.
I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find a real path forward, but we need a willing partner in the White House who appreciates the hardship he is causing everyday Americans.
It’s time for President Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell to put politics aside and take up the House-passed bills to end the shutdown NOW! Our communities and workers deserve better. Our nation deserves better.
U.S. Rep. Terri A. Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.