WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took to the Senate floor this evening to call on President Trump to end the government shutdown that is hurting American workers. Brown met this week with workers who are hurt by the ongoing government shutdown and called on President Trump to do the same. Brown also contrasted President Trump’s address last night with the facts about how the President’s temper tantrum is bad for workers and their families.
Brown has called on President Trump repeatedly to reopen the government. The Senate passed a bill unanimously to fund the government late last year. The House passed a similar measure this week that would pass the Senate today if Leader McConnell held a vote.
“It comes down to respecting the dignity of work. Missing one paycheck may not seem like a lot to the billionaire president and his multi-millionaire cabinet, with their massive investment portfolios. But for most Americans, missing a paycheck is a big deal. You can’t buy groceries or put gas in the car with an I-owe-you,” said Brown on the Senate floor.
In his remarks, Brown highlighted stories of workers he talked to and how the shutdown is hurting workers and their families. Brown also pointed out that many federal contract workers are paid hourly and will not receive back pay when the government reopens unless Congress steps in.
Brown plans to introduce legislation to secure back pay for government contract employees who have gone without pay during the government shutdown. Brown is also joining Senate colleagues in a letter this week calling on the Administration to direct federal agencies to ensure government contractors receive the back pay they deserve.
Before the holidays, the Senate unanimously passed a clean funding measure, which Brown supported. The White House indicated it would support that short-term spending measure to fund the government before President Trump abruptly changed course and shut down the government. Last week, the House passed a similar measure to fund the government and reopen the government with bipartisan support.
Brown is calling on the House measure to get a vote in the Senate and for President Trump to sign the measure right away. Brown will continue pushing for President Trump to end the shutdown and put Ohioans back to work.
Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found below.
Yesterday I started my day at the day Cleveland airport, where I talked with TSA agents, working without pay.
Then when I got to Washington, I went straight to a union workshop, where I talked to cafeteria workers in Arlington, Virginia – they’re federal contract workers who serve food at our Smithsonian museums, not government employees. So not only are they not getting paid, but they have no way to make up those lost wages.
Then last night I listened to the president talk about his wall, dig in a little more.
I wish Donald Trump would talk to the workers he’s hurting with his shutdown. I wish he’d get out of the White House, get out of Mar-a-Largo, and talk to the workers I talked to yesterday.
Last week, President Trump said his shutdown has a “higher purpose than next week's pay.”
I wonder if he’d tell that to TSA workers I met like Aaron Bankston, who told me:
“If you’re the only breadwinner in your family, and to have your kids looking up at you, it’s hard to tell them, we don’t have anything to put food on the table, that’s the hard part.
“We just have to get us back working. We’re working diligently over here, trying to make sure we’re securing America.”
Or Mr. President, tell the cafeteria workers I talked with, tell them there’s a higher purpose than a week’s pay.
Because remember, it’s not just direct federal employees who are feeling the pain.
A lot of Americans don’t realize that thousands of janitors and cafeteria workers and security guards are out of work because of President Trump.
And unless we do something, those workers won’t receive any back pay at all, because they’re employed by private contractors, not the government.
These workers are paid too little to begin with – often $10 or $12 or $15 an hour. And now they can’t go to work and have no way of making up those lost hours and lost wages.
I’m working with Senator Smith to try to come up with a solution to get these workers back pay, and I hope my colleagues will join me in that effort.
It comes down to respecting the dignity of work.
Missing one paycheck may not seem like a lot to the billionaire president and his multi-millionaire cabinet, with their massive investment portfolios.
But for most Americans, missing a paycheck is a big deal.
The president doesn’t understand that working people can’t just send a letter to creditors, saying please excuse me from paying rent or paying my mortgage or paying for my medications.
You can’t buy groceries or put gas in the car with an I-owe-you.
One of those cafeteria workers yesterday told me:
“I have to pay rent, I have other bills, I have a college student in his second semester and he needs help with his books.”
She said, “President Trump, I’m asking you: would you please open the government? Everyone is going through hardship, and we really don’t want this wall that you want.”
I’m guessing the president will never talk to these workers.
He spends time at his resort, he doesn’t see them.
Mitch McConnell could talk to them though.
He could come out of his office down the hall. He could go across the river to Virginia. He could talk to workers at the airport or food service workers who are out of work.
He could listen to their stories.
But he doesn’t.
I’m guessing if he did, he might be a little more inclined to let us vote to get these workers back on the job.
I’m calling on Mitch McConnell – come out of that office. Come down that hall. Put legislation on the floor, today, reopening the government.
Let’s also talk for a minute about what the president said last night.
Yesterday the president continued his record of telling lie after lie. Of misleading the people he’s supposed to serve.
So when you hear the president say that we need a wall, remember:
It’s a fact that illegal border crossings are at historic lows.
Fact: apprehensions at the border are down nearly 80 percent since 2000.
Another fact: the president’s wall would do nothing to stop opioids coming into our communities.
Fact: most illegal opioids are seized at legal points of entry, not trafficked over some remote area of Texas.
Fact: The shutdown makes it harder for Customs and Border Protection do their jobs intercepting those opioids.
Fact: Last year we passed the INTERDICT Act – a bipartisan bill to get CBP the screening devices they need to test for opioids.
Why would we focus on the president’s vanity project instead of getting agents the technology they need?
And here’s another fact: Most of undocumented immigrants aren’t committing crimes.
In 2015, there were 56 percent fewer criminal convictions for undocumented immigrants than native-born Texans.
And keep in mind the facts of what this shutdown is costing the American people:
It’s a fact – 800,000 federal workers are going without a paycheck.
Fact: 420,000 of them are on the job without pay.
Fact: Thousands of contract workers – remember, custodians, cafeteria workers, security guards – not only aren’t getting a paycheck, but they won’t get back pay.
And here’s another fact – the president could end this shutdown right now.
It’s a fact – the Senate passed a bill to fund the government in December.
Fact: that bill was unanimous.
Fact: The House passed bills to fund the government last week.
Fact: Mitch McConnell could put those House bills on the floor right now. We could vote to end this shutdown and send them to the president’s desk.
But remember – it’s also a fact that the president said, quote, “I am proud to shut down the government.”
Let’s remember, facts matter.
And the fact is, President Trump has once again betrayed American workers.