Rep. Jim Costa and Rep. TJ Cox met Friday afternoon with representatives from several federal workers unions and a couple small business owners who are all reeling from the partial government shutdown.
The two Fresno Democrats met in a somewhat unconventional political setting: A Subway restaurant located on the ground floor of the United Security Bank building in downtown Fresno. But the location served a purpose, as it has seen a dramatic downswing in business since the 1,300 IRS employees in the floors above him went on furlough.
Local representatives from the offices of California’s Democratic senators, Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, also attended.
Representatives for federal prison workers, meat and poultry workers and IRS employees shared stories of missed paychecks, security risks and work-stoppage impacts that have already begun to spread to private citizens and businesses.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Fresno Bee
Costa called the government’s inability to pass a budget “irresponsible,” saying that it was the result of political games played by President Donald Trump.
Cox took it a step further, saying the shutdown was “irresponsible, immoral and illegal.” Forcing prison guards, inspectors and other federal employees to work without pay is a proven violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, he said.
They each spoke out against Trump’s plan for a border wall, with Costa calling it “silly” as tunnels and other factors would render it unnecessary. Both noted that Trump’s administration has only spent about 10 percent of the $1.6 billion allotted to border security in the previous budget.
“This is not a legitimate policy discussion,” Cox said in an interview after the forum. “Trump is pandering to his radio talk show host base.”
The two were hopeful the shutdown would be resolved soon. The House is expected to pass another bill next week that would reopen the government, though previous attempts have been dead on arrival in the Senate.