WASHINGTON POST, JENNA PORTNOY
Twenty House members from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. represent hundreds of thousands of federal workers, but only seven lawmakers say they will forgo salaries as the partial government shutdown stretches into a third week.
In Virginia, they are Reps. Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton — three first-term Democrats who turned red seats blue in November — as well as Republican Reps. Rob Wittman, who is in his sixth full term, and freshman Denver Riggleman.
In Maryland, they are nine-term Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and freshman Rep. David Trone, both Democrats.
“We must do our job, and when we don’t, we should feel the consequences just like any other American would,” Wittman, who just won a seventh term, said in a statement.
The list does not include Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) or Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), whose districts are home to more than 80,000 federal workers each — the most and second-most in the country.
“I understand and respect my colleagues’ initiative to show solidarity with federal workers by refusing salary,” Beyer said in a statement. “I feel, however, that we should not give a billionaire President this additional leverage over members of Congress.”
Raskin said he plans to visit a food pantry in Montgomery County on Tuesday and make personal contributions to groups helping workers meet basic needs during the shutdown.
“I hope this is not becoming a standard operating practice in the federal government,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s wasteful and profoundly demoralizing to people who chose to make their living in federal service.”
A spokesman for Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), who is chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said the congressman makes “significant charitable contributions” annually.
“Members of Congress delaying their paychecks will do nothing to re-open the government or help federal employees get paid,” spokesman Austin Barbera said in a statement.
The Democratic-controlled House last week passed measures ensuring federal workers will be paid retroactively when the shutdown ends and restoring a scheduled pay raise, but the Senate has not taken up the measures.
The House also eliminated the Holman rule, an obscure procedural rule that Republicans reinstated in January 2017 that allowed lawmakers to cut any individual federal worker’s pay to $1. Democrats called it a symbol of the GOP’s disdain for the federal workforce.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting representative, plans to introduce a bill to provide back pay to low-wage federal contract workers, who usually do not receive back pay during a shutdown.
Members say federal workers affected by the shutdown are calling their offices with questions about unemployment benefits and what to do if they face eviction or can’t make a mortgage payment because they aren’t getting paid.
Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) will hold a town hall Saturday morning at the Largo-Kettering library, where experts will answer questions.
Privately, members who are taking their regular salary say requests to withhold pay are largely symbolic. Members, who are paid once a month and have not received January checks yet, can ask for their pay to be withheld but will get it back when the shutdown is over.
Wittman plans to donate his salary to charity as he has in the past, although he hasn’t decided where it will go, a spokeswoman said.
Riggleman said he plans to donate his salary to the Drakes Branch Volunteer Fire Department in Charlotte County, which serves a region hit hard by Hurricane Michael.
The shutdown has triggered a cascade of negative consequences for local governments.
The D.C. Council is set to approve legislation Tuesday that would allow the mayor to issue marriage licenses. Couples currently cannot get marriage licenses in the District because the local court system is federally funded and the marriage bureau is considered a nonessential function during a shutdown.
“It’s very unfortunate,” Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said. “It’s hurting real people and it’s over a certain amount of stubbornness or unwillingness to adopt the continuing resolution that allows the government to stay open.”
City Administrator Rashad M. Young said District officials planned to meet this week to develop a contingency plan for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients if the shutdown drags into next month and the food-benefit program is threatened. The D.C. Housing Authority, which manages federally funded public housing programs, said Monday it could operate through the end of March with previously scheduled payments and reserve funding.
The shutdown inspired some bipartisan behavior on behalf of elected officials watching their local economies and budgets suffer.
Bowser and Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, both Democrats, and Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, on Friday sent a letter to President Trump and leaders of majorities and minorities in the House and Senate, accusing them of a “failure of leadership” as long as the shutdown continues.
“As our federal employees and contractors experience a sudden loss of income, this not only causes financial hardship for individuals and families, but also deals a significant blow to our region’s economy,” they wrote. “Hard-working federal employees and those who depend on them should not have to suffer because of this partisan standoff.”
Last month, Hogan, who will be the next chairman of the National Governors Association, and Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat, called for an end to the shutdown on behalf of the NGA.
Many of the more than 360,000 federal workers who live in the region are on furlough or working without pay. The most recent census data on the number of federal workers in each congressional district comes from 2015.
The Census Bureau website explains: “Due to a lapse in federal funding this website is not being updated.”