Tlaib, workers talk impact of federal government shutdown

By: - January 8, 2019 7:03 pm

Rashida Tlaib (left) and Hodari Brown (right) | Ken Coleman

As long as the current partial federal government shutdown continues, Hodari Brown says his home mortgage is in jeopardy.

“I haven’t been paid since December,” the Redford and federal government employee said Tuesday morning. “I also help to assist my parents.”

Brown, a military veteran, joined U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) as the first-term Capitol Hill lawmaker sought to place a human face on the nearly three-week old partial government shutdown.  

Rashida Tlaib | Ken Coleman

The event was held Michigan Veterans Foundation on Detroit’s west side.

“There are countless people in this state who are impacted by this government shutdown,” she said. “Numbers are one thing, but it is important for all of us to hear what this means for the day-to-day lives of those in the 13th Congressional District and across this country.”

Tlaib has been at the center of a national firestorm for her comments last week of Trump: “We’re gonna impeach the motherfucker!” She briefly addressed this at the press conference, calling the timing of her remarks a “distraction” and a “teachable moment.”

“It’s the only thing I apologize for,” she said. “I have a right to be this passionate, this upset. I am a woman of color.”

Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American woman to be elected to Congress. She and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) are the first Muslim women to join the body.

About 800,000 federal workers, more than 5,000 in Michigan, are either working without pay or being forced to stay home and go without a paycheck.

President Donald Trump wants Congress to appropriate $5.7 billion to begin the construction of a new border wall between the United States and Mexico. Trump will deliver a primetime address Tuesday night to address what he called in a tweet a “Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border.”

The shutdown began on Dec. 22. This is the third partial government shutdown on Trump’s watch. Like the first two shutdowns last year, this action began while Republicans controlled the U.S. House and Senate.

Democrats assumed control of the lower chamber on Jan. 3 and have passed legislation to reopen the government without border wall funding. The GOP-led U.S. Senate has not taken action. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said Democrats will not fund the wall, calling it “immoral.”

Tlaib called on the U.S. Senate to act.

“We need the president to signal that he will sign the bills the House passed,” she said. “[Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and Republicans in the Senate need to show leadership and send those bills to the president. We’ve done our job; it’s time for them to do theirs. Make no question, this shutdown is because of Trump. He owns it and he needs to end it now.”

Brown entreated leaders to consider the impact on workers.

Jessie Urban | Ken Coleman

“Like many of my fellow federal employees, we depend on our paycheck to provide shelter, heat, electricity, water, and food. All of those things are in flux for me as I wait for a paycheck,” said Brown. “Federal employees like myself and the families that depend on us and government programs cannot afford political games. We need action and we need leadership.”

Also attending the press conference was Jessie Urban of LA VIDA Partnership, a domestic violence and sexual assault intervention and prevention program that provides linguistically and culturally appropriate services and resources targeted to Latino/a youth and families in Southwest Detroit and Southeast Michigan.

“At LA VIDA, we provide many services to survivors of domestic, sexual, and intimate violence,” said Urban, youth and legal program manager. “Our programs rely on funding from the Violence Against Women Act. Because of the shutdown, the act was not extended by Congress and expired when the shutdown occurred. This means that LA VIDA does not know where our funding will come from or when it will come.”

Jack Schulz | Ken Coleman

Jack Schulz, a local attorney, also talked about an aspect that has not been mentioned much around the shutdown.

“My client is a Michigan resident and is involved in a discrimination claim against employees within a federal agency she worked for,” said Schulz. “Because of the actions of the administration, my client and their case has been delayed time after time. Two of those delays were caused by government shutdowns which left the Department of Justice unable to take actions in the case. Those in our government are supposed to work on our behalf. In order to do so, we need our elected federal officials to show leadership and re-open the government.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.