I come to the floor to discuss the ways in which this pointless shutdown has done real harm to American workers and families. I appreciate the words of my colleague from Nevada as she explained how devastating this has been in her State.
We are now in day 20, and the stories are flooding in, in the calls to my office, as to how this political gamesmanship from the White House is harming the American people.
The Washington Post estimates that 6,100 Federal workers in Minnesota have been affected by the shutdown. This includes 1,700 who work for the Department of Agriculture--right when the farm bill has passed. We have many small dairy farmers in Minnesota for whom we had worked so hard to get this bill passed. Now they need to understand it, and they need to figure out what programs to sign up for, but they have no one to talk to. These aren't big milking operations. These are places with a couple of dozen cows, with 50 cows, and they have no one to talk to. As I said, the Washington Post has cited 6,100 Federal workers. Some of these employees are furloughed and are forced to stay away from work. Others are forced to work without pay. Here are a few of their stories.
Sandy Parr works as a food service supervisor and nurse at the Federal Medical Center Rochester in Rochester, MN. She has been asked to work 60-hour shifts during the shutdown and to fill in for dozens of absent colleagues--all without being paid. She told one of our newspapers that she may soon be forced to choose between groceries and medication for her 14-year-old son who has autism.
Celia Hahn is a transportation security officer at our airport, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. It is a major airport, a hub. She told our local newspaper that she has canceled her plans to sign up her twin 9-year-old boys for a soccer clinic. If the shutdown drags on, she will have to call her mortgage lender to negotiate payments, which is a step many of her colleagues have already had to take.
It goes from the small--a soccer signup that might not seem that important, but anyone who is a parent knows it is a really important thing for kids--to the big, are you going to be able to afford your house? Then it goes to the even bigger as you look at a major airport that has lines and people who are working without pay and where you have law enforcement on the frontline, whether it is Homeland Security or whether they are FBI agents who are going to be working without pay.
Of course, my State is by no means unique in being hurt by this shutdown. I have heard the stories from so many of my colleagues.
Senator Kaine told us about Alan, a veteran and civil servant in Yorktown. He has had to work without pay since the shutdown began. His emergency savings are exhausted, and he is behind in his bills.
Senator Durbin of Illinois talked about a Transportation Security Administration worker, a TSA worker, who fears the impact of missing a mortgage or a rent payment. The man told the Senator that if he can't make one of those payments on time, it will hurt his credit rating, which could affect the interest rates he will pay on loans and mortgages for the rest of his life.
These are real people with real-world problems.
Senator Heinrich of New Mexico told the story of Nicholas, a firefighter. If the shutdown isn't resolved, he told the Senator, he will not be able to support his family.
On Tuesday night, I joined Senator Shaheen, who talked about how furloughs have slowed down the work at the Office of National Drug Control Policy and about how the continued delays in funding will pull the rug out from first responders who rely on this funding.
Senator Warner of Virginia talked about the shutdown's impact on Federal contractors, including custodians, cafeteria workers, and security guards who work as Federal contractors who will never see backpay for the shutdown unless we do something about it.
This is what is happening.
The public IRS office is closed. That is in my State. A woman is trying to make a payment for taxes due and is concerned about the interest and penalties because of the time it will take to process her payment by mail.
The Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, MN, a community lender, has two projects awaiting construction funding from the SBA, the Small Business Administration. That is shutdown.
A young man needs his tax transcripts for a late enrollment in college. With the IRS not providing this service, he will not be able to attend the first day of his classes.
A woman who was the victim of identity theft in my State was trying to report it to the IRS but to no avail.
These are basic services that our constituents are being forced to go without. These are promises we made to our constituents and to the men and women who serve the public as Federal employees. It is time for the President to end this pointless shutdown and reopen the government.
I yield the floor.