As Trump heads to border, federal workers rally against shutdown

Washington, DC – As US President Donald Trump headed to the country’s southern border with Mexico on Thursday, federal workers, unions and some Democrats rallied in the nation’s capital against the ongoing partial government shutdown.

Trump’s trip to Texas to make his case for a wall on the US-Mexico border comes on the 20th day of the shutdown, which was born from Trump’s demand that Congress provide more than $5bn in funding for the wall, a measure that Democrats have opposed.

“Let’s call this shutdown what it is: It’s a lockout,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of unions, told the crowd. “Shame on the Senate. Shame on the White House. This lockout has to end, and it has to end now.”

Trumka added, “Instead of going to the border for a photo op, president Trump should be on the Hill negotiating a deal to open the federal government and put out people back to work.”

Demonstrators chanted against Trump, while placards blamed him for the ongoing shutdown. “Do your jobs, so we can do ours,” several protesters chanted. 

“Stop the shutdown,” others screamed. “We want to work.” 

The shutdown started on December 22 and has affected key government agencies, forcing many federal workers to continue working without pay and others to simply stay at home.

At least two unions have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration over the shutdown.

‘Lives as political pawns’ 

Trump walked out of a meeting with top Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on Wednesday, and he had no additional negotiations scheduled when he took off for McAllen, Texas, on Thursday morning.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, Trump suggested that he may declare a national emergency in order to obtain funding for the wall without congressional approval. If he moved forward with that threat, it would likely be challneged in the courts. 

Trump has blamed Democrats for the shutdown, accusing them of standing in the way of national security. 

But a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll published on Wednesday found that nearly half of voters blame Trump for the shutdown, while only 33 percent blame Democrats. 

A demonstrator holds a sign, signifying hundreds of thousands of federal employees who won’t be receiving their paychecks as a result of the partial government shutdown [Carlos Barria/Reuters] 

Last week, with pressuring mounting, Trump said he would allow the partial shutdown to continue for “months or even years” if he did not get funding for the border wall.

At Thursday’s rally in Washington, DC, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, accused Trump of inflicting “pain” on federal workers. “Shutting down the government is not a policy that should be followed,” he told the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we need to keep yelling and screaming and hollering until this president opens up that government – of the people, for the people and by the people.”

US Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, called on Senate politicians to pass bills to reopen the federal government.

“You want to fight about border security? We’ll have that discussion,” he said. “But do not hold 800,000 people’s lives as political pawns.”

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