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WASHINGTON, D.C. Jan. 16, 2019— U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris spoke on the Senate floor today to call on her colleagues to immediately take up bipartisan legislation to re-open the government and put federal employees in California and across the country back to work. In her remarks, she noted that before the holidays the Senate unanimously passed legislation to re-open the government and that the president has consistently stood in the way of ending the shutdown.
Full remarks as delivered by Harris:
Madame President, we’re now 26 days into the longest government shutdown in American history.
800,000 workers—800,000 Americans—are going without pay. Half of them are working anyway.
Now, let’s be very clear about how we got into this mess.
The United States Senate unanimously passed a bill to open the government right before the holidays. The vote was 100-0. There was such jubilance on this floor that literally members of the United States Senate were singing Christmas carols.
Yet two weeks ago, the House then passed a bill to reopen the government, doing its job. They sent six bills over to the United States Senate.
This body needs to hold a vote on that legislation and send it to the President and ask him to sign it.
Because the real obstacle to ending this shutdown is in the White House.
The President is holding the American people hostage over his vanity project on the southern border—and he’s peddling his usual propaganda to distract from a crisis of his own making.
The President has said, “Most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats”—as if that’s true or if that should matter.
He has said that “Many of the people that we’re talking about…agree with what we’re doing.”
It has been said that the workers have said, “Stay out until you get the funding for the wall.”
Well that’s contrary to what we’ve been hearing and what I’ve been hearing. Last week for example, I heard from a woman named Trisha.
Trisha and her husband are both air traffic controllers with nearly 40 years of federal service combined.
Trisha’s husband served in the Navy. He now has to work long hours of overtime to compensate for the workers who are absent because they’ve been furloughed. And he’s not being paid.
Trisha’s job was deemed non-essential, so she’s also not being paid.
Neither parent in this family is being paid. They have three young children. And this is on top of the fact that Trisha and her family have already endured hardship these past few months as victims of the Thomas Fire.
As she wrote me, “On December 5th of last year, our home was completely destroyed in the Thomas Fire and we have used every resource available to us to work towards rebuilding our home.”
While their home is being rebuilt, Trisha’s family moved into in a rental home—and they’re currently evacuated from that rental home due to flood and mudslide risks that are currently an issue in California.
Trisha said, “We have small children that we are most concerned about (with the uncertainty of our careers as federal employees and the incredibly long road ahead in rebuilding our home but most importantly our livelihood).”
“We will continue to stand with our NATCA brothers and sisters in ensuring the safety of the National Airspace System,” Trisha wrote. “But without the support staff working, it is a daunting task.”
Trisha’s message is one of nearly 20,000 phone calls, emails, and letters my office has received since the shutdown began 26 days ago — all pleading with us to reopen the government.
They’re 2 of the 42,300 federal workers currently affected in California.
I don’t know which of them are Democrats or Republicans, and it doesn’t matter.
What matters is the people being hurt and the critical government functions that are going undone.
They’re the TSA agents who protect our flights and the air traffic controllers who help land our planes.
They’re park rangers and FBI agents and Coast Guard members.
They inspect our food and provide loans to our farmers. They conduct lifesaving research.
And right now, they’re being told to pay their bills by babysitting or selling their belongings on Craigslist.
Madame President, these Americans need their government to do its job. They don’t need a wall. They need a paycheck.
Congress is a coequal branch of government. We don’t need a permission slip before we can vote on a bill.
So on behalf of Trisha and hundreds of thousands of Americans like her, let’s take up the legislation that we already approved. Let’s send it to the President. And let’s end this pointless shutdown, as soon as possible, right away, now.