Leaders in the U.S. Senate today unveiled a bipartisan agreement to end the partial government shutdown and extend the nation’s borrowing authority, but doubts remain as to whether the compromise will pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
As the spotlight shifted to the House, federal employees, union leaders and retirees paid a visit to Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen’s Eden Prairie offices this morning, urging the 3rd District Republican to stand behind public statements that he would vote for a “clean” bill to fully fund the government were it to reach the House floor.
Paulsen took heat for that very statement earlier this month, when Tea Party activists demanded he get on board with House Republicans’ plot to use the shutdown as leverage in an ill-fated attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act.
Now Tea Party Republicans are looking to exact steep cuts from Social Security and Medicare as ransom for extending the nation’s borrowing authority before tomorrow’s deadline. Retirees like Ilo Madden of St. Louis Park are hoping Paulsen won’t play along.
“Social Security and Medicare are my main sources of survival,” Madden said at a press availability following the meeting with Paulsen’s staff. “I wonder why the officials who we gave our faith and trust to in the form of a vote are doing this to us.”
The delegation of about 15 people reflected the wide-ranging effects of the shutdown, now in its third week. Gary Schabert, a retired veteran from St. Paul, said he participated out of concern for his daughter, who is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in two weeks.
“This is for her, to make sure she has what she needs when she needs it,” Schabert said.
Other members of the delegation told Paulsen that the Tea Party’s political grandstanding in Washington was coming at the expense of federal employees and the citizens they serve, including veterans.
Jared Thyen, a Bloomington resident who works in the Minneapolis Veterans Hospital, said many of his colleagues at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System – the people who process claims and determine benefits – are working without pay.
“Morale at my office is extremely low,” said Thyen, 32, a chief steward of Local 1969 of the American Federation of Government Employees. “People are not able to pay their bills, like child (care). People my age and younger cannot pay their student loans. The bills keep coming.
“This shutdown has to stop.”
Federal employees are still reeling from three years of frozen pay and cuts to retirement benefits. Many workers have been furloughed up to six days per year as a result of sequestration cuts. According to AFGE, federal employees’ pay freezes and retirement cuts have contributed $105 billion in deficit reduction already.
“We have to put a stop to this,” Local 1969 President Vicky Sirovy said.