Shutdown fallout: Federal employees share anxiety with Senator

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto talked to federal employees about the effects of the partial...
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto talked to federal employees about the effects of the partial shut down. Photo by Ed Pearce/KOLO.(KOLO)
Published: Jan. 11, 2019 at 6:54 PM PST
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Like other members of Congress home for the moment, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is hearing from federal employees caught in the crossfire of the battle over the border wall and the government shutdown it has triggered.

She met with a group of them, 25 or so, prior to a news conference with the local media. Four of them followed her to her office to share their stories about life without the promise of a paycheck.

Cortez Masto said what was described in private was often'heartbreaking.

"There's no certainty for them to rely on a paycheck to raise their families, put food on the table or maintain day-care."

Those who did agree to meet the media included a psychiatrist and his educator wife, the wife of a Coast Guardsman stationed at Lake Tahoe and a Bureau of Land Management employee.

"We're under a high level of anxiety," said BLM employee David Pritchett. "We don't know when we'll be paid again. Mean time we still owe bills."

"We are scare of evictions, of skipped mortgage payments, of utility shutouts, of food scarcity and losing child care," said Brianna Bedard, wife of a Tahoe-based US Coast Guard member. "This is not how you should treat the military."

"Survival concerns are very serious," added Dr. Michael Moradshahi. ""And it's extra taxing to figure out how to work when you can't provide that for your family."

"We're balancing everything on their backs, their budget, their paychecks," said the senator. "And that's not how we should operate. That's not how we should be doing this in Congress or this administration. I think that is the frustration that I hear. I think we're all to blame."

While no one knows how long this will last or how it will end, the senator said--and at least one employee agreed--the answer is for everyone to do their job as outlined in the Constitution.

"We vote on legislation to open up the government and it will have bipartisan support. If we do it in the Senate I guarantee it will have bipartisan support. They've already done it in the House. We send it to the president. If he vetoes it, then our process is to override the veto and keep the government open and moving forward. So that one branch of government can't hold the others hostage and hold the American workers hostage."

One man, the senator said, is standing in the way of that process. She means Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The senator hailed passage of a bill which would guarantee back pay for furloughed workers and supports another which would protect them from immediate action from creditors.

She said her office stands ready to step in an assist in any situation brought on by the shutdown.