WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 8, 2019) — Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) spoke on the Senate Floor to highlight the damaging impact the Trump Shutdown is having on communities across New Mexico and to call on the president and Senate Republicans to reopen the government immediately. Already into its 18th day, almost 6,000 federal workers in New Mexico have been furloughed or are working without pay because of President Trump's unnecessary and irresponsible shutdown.
During his remarks, Senator Heinrich shared stories from federal workers in New Mexico who are paying a steep cost for President Trump’s decision to hold the government hostage for his wasteful border wall. Senator Heinrich is working to end the partial government shutdown and recently cosponsored legislation to ensure furloughed federal workers get paid retroactively as soon as the shutdown ends.
Below are Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:
We are now in the third week of President Trump’s government shutdown.
This is yet another manufactured, unnecessary, and irresponsible crisis from this president.
And it comes with a steep cost.
A government shutdown ripples throughout the entire economy, shakes consumer confidence, and impacts hard-working families.
In my home state of New Mexico, almost 6,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay.
Many of whom were already living paycheck to paycheck before the shutdown.
Carol from Tijeras wrote to me: “I feel I am being held Hostage by my government which I have always felt it was an honor to work for.”
Carol is worried about how she and her co-workers are going to pay their mortgages and car payments if the shutdown continues.
Kathy from Los Lunas wrote to me: “I am a federal employee and I am dismayed that the president is holding us hostage…. He needs to quit toying with our lives and all of the public that we support and serve and end this shutdown.”
I couldn’t agree more.
And the shutdown’s impacts hit far more than just our federal employees.
Hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans rely on the federal agencies President Trump refuses to reopen.
During President Trump’s shutdown, our public lands have had to lock their gates or leave parks and facilities unstaffed.
The impacts of reduced visitation, the challenges for furloughed public lands workers, and the costs of repairing any damage accrued during the shutdown will hurt communities all across our state.
And in this era of increasingly extreme and catastrophic wildfires, I’m particularly worried about the impact a prolonged shutdown will have on our forests.
Nicholas, a wildland firefighter from Las Cruces, wrote to me that he and his coworkers have been furloughed.
He says: “If this shutdown is not resolved, it will impact my ability to provide for my family.”
Nicholas deserves to be able to support his family.
And our communities can’t afford to wait for Nicholas and his coworkers to do their essential work that keeps our forests healthy and prevents more destructive wildfires.
Our state’s farmers and rural communities are also facing increased uncertainty.
That’s because President Trump’s shutdown has shuttered the Department of Agriculture, which funds agricultural loans and many economic development programs for rural communities.
And if the shutdown continues into next month, as President Trump seems willing to allow, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—sometimes referred to as food stamps—will also run out of funding.
That would mean millions of Americans—including more than half a million in New Mexico—would be left struggling to put food on the table.
Over the weekend, KOB, one of our local television stations in Albuquerque, talked to New Mexicans who would be impacted by a lapse in food stamps funding.
One man named Steven said, “All of us who use food stamps rely on it. That's how we eat, that's how we get our nutrition."
He said that if he can’t receive his support for food next month he might have to take out a loan and go into debt.
New Mexico is also home to many tribal nations who are disproportionately impacted by a lapse in federal funding and are now under distress to meet many basic needs for their communities.
That includes law enforcement, education, housing, and transportation.
Let me tell you about just one example I’ve heard from the Mescalero Apache Tribe in southern New Mexico.
Mescalero’s lands span more than 700 square miles.
Because of President Trump’s shutdown, the tribe’s federally-funded police force has been furloughed.
Just think about what that means for someone who needs help, someone who needs to report a crime, or someone who needs medical attention.
And I need to remind us that this shutdown comes right after Congress failed in December to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Now without this law and without funding, tribes are especially strained in addressing an epidemic of sexual violence that has been so acutely felt in their communities.
Mescalero has seen all of its Bureau of Indian Affairs social workers and victims’ specialists furloughed.
That is extremely dangerous for women and children who are victims of abuse.
These are real people’s lives being unnecessarily damaged by President Trump—all because he won’t stop holding our government hostage.
Perhaps most telling about President Trump’s shutdown is the impact it is having on our federal workers responsible for keeping our nation safe along our southern border.
As a border state, New Mexico is more familiar than President Trump with responsible and smart border security policies.
In fact, our state is the proud home of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, one of the primary training centers for U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
Because of President Trump’s shutdown, the workers at FLETC, and all of the officers working at our ports of entry and agents along our border, are either furloughed or working with no pay.
How can that possibly be the best way to keep our nation’s border region safe and secure?
The President has said that he would be proud to shut down our government.
Well, I say that there is nothing to be proud about in any of this. The president can and must put an end to his shutdown.
Look, the way out of this is very straightforward.
The votes are not there in either the House or the Senate to make American taxpayers foot the bill for President Trump’s wasteful border wall.
Signing a bipartisan government funding bill to reopen the government is the only responsible way forward.
The only thing he is doing by refusing to back down is hurting Americans like the families I represent in New Mexico.
They expect and deserve so much better than this irresponsible and completely preventable shutdown. President Trump has the power to end all of this madness right now.
So I will say one last time, President Trump, if you are listening, listen to the American people.
Do the right thing and end this shutdown.