As Dems call on President Trump to end the federal shutdown, employees in Colorado consider their future

The lawmakers met with federal workers during a press conference at DIA.
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U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (center) during a press conference on the government shutdown on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, at DIA. Behind him (from left): U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse and Diana DeGette, and local air traffic union president Joshua Waggener. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

The longest federal government shutdown in the country’s history is keeping EPA physical scientist Sherrie Kinard from going to work.

It’s gotten to the point where the Highlands Ranch resident is giving her current employer a long, hard look. It’s a little ironic, since the perceived stability for federal jobs is part of the reason she sought a job there in the first place.

“If it’s not open within the next couple of weeks, I’m actively going to start looking,” Kinard said Monday following a press conference at DIA on the shutdown. “Because quite honestly, I have the credentials … I can go and work in private industry in a heartbeat.”

Kinard joined other federal workers on Monday who appeared next to Democrats in Colorado’s Congressional Delegation, who gathered to call on President Trump to end the federal shutdown. The delegation included U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Reps. Jason Crow, Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse and Ed Perlmutter.

“This is a travesty, what our country is facing right now,” Bennet said. “There’s no reason why this government should be shut down over the president’s temper tantrum.”

The shutdown is now in its 24th day. It started after President Trump and Congress failed to come to an agreement on spending bills keeping the government operational, according to NBC News. The biggest dispute arose from funding over a border wall, a signature campaign promise/chant for Trump and his supporters. He wants billions in funding for it as part of the spending package.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette during a press conference on the government shutdown on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, at DIA. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

DeGette, who represents Denver, said she wants the government “opened” again before discussing border security.

“These people standing behind us are solid employees,” DeGette said in response to a question over unpaid employees being bitter. “They have the safety of the citizens paramount. That’s why they’re working without a paycheck.”

Kinard — like many of the other roughly 15,000 federal employees in Colorado affected — could face a crossroad in a matter of weeks.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier this month Trump said during a meeting he intends to keep the government closed for “months or even years.”

National Air Traffic Controllers Association Local President Joshua Waggener of Greeley said he’s heard from colleagues wondering if they’re allowed to have an additional job and continue working in air traffic.

“They’re looking at what can I do to help make some more money for my family during this time when I’m not getting a paycheck,” Waggener said.

Waggener said he’s lucky. His wife is working and has been able to keep them afloat while he works without a paycheck in Longmont. He can’t say the same for all of his colleagues, some of whom he said are taking out loans to pay for bills.

“(It’s) one of the little things that’s a byproduct of this shutdown, that I think people need to be made aware of,” Waggener said.

Kinard, who does pesticide enforcement at the EPA, has two special-needs children who require therapy. She enjoys her job, knowing she’s helping keep people safe from pesticide exposure. And the flexibility is helpful in caring for her child.

“I’ve seriously started thinking about not working for the government, because at this point, it’s starting to become an unreliable employer,” Kinard said Monday at DIA during a press conference.

So why aren’t Democrats sitting down to ink out a deal?

Perlmutter said House Democratic leadership has tried. Trump reportedly did walk out of a room during a negotiation attempt just last week.

“That’s not a very easy way to negotiate,” Perlmutter said. “This is a guy who wrote — supposedly wrote — ‘The Art of the Deal’ and he isn’t sitting down to really negotiate.”

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter during a press conference on the government shutdown on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, at DIA. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Democrats are reluctant to provide billions in funding for the wall. Perlmutter said instead they’re interested in seeing border security involving such security measures as drones or other barriers (that are presumably not the same as the wall Trump wants).

Bennet noted immigration bills presented in the past, including a 2013 bill he co-sponsored as part of the “Gang of Eight” senators. Bennet said the bill included $46 billion in border security, adding thousands more border security officers. It was passed by the Senate but died in the House. The senator said Trump should consult with those lawmakers to come up with a similar bill.

“The president invented an issue and then said the Mexicans would pay for the wall,” Bennet said. “He’s now demanding the American taxpayers pay for what is not a solution to this problem.”

As Bennet spoke, a person shouted “Build the wall!” nearby.

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