Sen. Bob Menendez, Rep. Donald Norcross and Rep. Jeff Van Drew joined union officials Monday to call for an end to the longest shutdown of the U.S. federal government in history.
The shutdown has stretched on for 31 days, eclipsing the record set by a 21-day shutdown under former President Bill Clinton, and government workers and contractors are facing the possibility of missing a second pay check, all while negotiations to reopen the government have stalled.
Menendez took a hard tack against President Donald Trump’s demands for funding to build a border wall along the southwest border of the united states, claiming the president was holding federal workers hostage to earn political points with his base.
“There’s no reason to hold those federal employees hostage,” Menendez said. “Our message is very simple to start off with. Open the government, get people back to work, and we can figure out what border security we need.”
House Democrats have put through a number of funding bills, but those measures were not brought to the floor by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In upcoming spending bills, House Democrats have included $1 billion in funding for border security, though that money would not go to fund a border wall.
Trump released a counterproposal over the weekend that would temporarily reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs in exchange for $5.7 billion for the border wall.
Democrats rejected that proposal out of hand.
“Let’s go back a little further, when this started, they controlled the House, the Senate and the Presidency. They didn’t need us. This was a manufactured crisis to use humans,” Norcross said. “Everybody says ‘the president’s a great negotiator.’ A great negotiator is when you have something personally at stake. The only thing he has at stake is you, your pain. He’s hoping that other people will roll over.”
Van Drew, a moderate Democrat whose district the shutdown has hit harder than others in the state, took a more measured stance on the negotiations, avoiding taking shots at Trump as his fellow members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation did.
“My pledge to you is I will work with anybody, anywhere, anytime for any reason to get you all back to work, and I’m not kidding around — I will,” Van Drew said. “Whether it’s popular, whether it’s unpopular, whether it’s perfectly politically correct or not, I will.”