Veterans, Federal Workers Rally Against Another Government Shutdown

Furloughed government workers affected by the shutdown held a silent protest against the partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 23, 2019. Veterans and government workers held a similar protest Feb. 13. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Furloughed government workers affected by the shutdown held a silent protest against the partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 23, 2019. Veterans and government workers held a similar protest Feb. 13. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Federal workers chanting "Never Again" rallied Wednesday on Capitol Hill to press Congress for a veto-proof deal to avoid another government shutdown at midnight Friday.

About one-third of the estimated 800,000 government employees who were furloughed or worked without pay in the last shutdown were veterans, according to government figures.

"Our members are very concerned we could see another 11th-hour issue" block an agreement, said Will Attig, executive director of the AFL-CIO's Union Veterans Council.

"We're very concerned there might be some backtracking" on the tentative agreement reached by House and Senate leaders on a deal to avoid another partial government shutdown that would give President Donald Trump a fraction of what he had sought in funding for the border wall, Attig said.

At the Hart Senate Office Building, federal workers demonstrated with the theme of "No Day 36," a reference to the 35-day shutdown, the longest in history, from which they are still recovering.

The demonstrators stood silent for 35 minutes, one for each day of the previous shutdown, and then took up the chant "Never Again."

The protest was organized by the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union representing about 700,000 workers.

In a statement, AFGE President J. David Cox said, "The employees standing here today, and the American people, deserve a government that works and never ever considers shutting it down for any reason."

"We haven't gotten it yet," Trump said Wednesday of the proposed congressional agreement to fund several departments and avoid a shutdown.

"We'll be getting it, and we'll be looking for land mines," he said in remarks to White House reporters.

"I don't want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing," Trump said, but his demands for wall money, and the refusal of Democrats to provide it, led to the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended in late January.

Since then, the government has been operating on a continuing resolution passed by Congress. It expires at midnight Friday.

On Fox News on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, "We'll see what the final package looks like but, like you said and like the president himself said yesterday, he's not happy about it. But he's going to get the job done no matter what."

Referring to the possibility that the president would dip into the military construction budget or separate funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to build more sections of the wall, Sanders said, "He's got alternative options, and he's going keep those on the table."

Trump has also made reference to the $23 billion in funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection, under the tentative agreement as a potential source for wall money.

All the options would likely be subject to legal challenge as violations of Congress' power of the purse under the Constitution. Under the proposed agreement, $1.38 billion would be provided for border wall fencing and other security measures. Trump is seeking $5.7 billion.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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