Dem invites Ross to food bank to see plight of furloughed workers

Dem invites Ross to food bank to see plight of furloughed workers
© Greg Nash

A Democratic lawmaker is inviting Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to visit a food bank in Washington, D.C., after the Cabinet official said he doesn't understand why furloughed federal employees need help during the government shutdown.

"I wanted to extend an invitation to you to visit the Capital Area Food Bank with me this weekend to meet some of these federal employees, hear their stories firsthand, and realize how important it is to end this shutdown as soon a possible before people’s lives are irreparably harmed," Rep. Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonCarson defends transgender comments, hits media for 'mischaracterizations' Ben Carson's remarks during San Francisco visit spark backlash Democrats blast HUD for removing LGBT language from grant competition MORE (D-Va.) wrote in a letter to Ross on Thursday.

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"I think it would be a valuable learning experience for you to see what our federal workforce, including your own employees at the Department of Commerce, are going through," she added.

Ross said Thursday on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that he didn't "really quite understand why" some of the 800,000 furloughed government workers, who have already missed one paycheck, have turned to food banks.

He suggested that they instead seek loans to help make ends meet while they remain furloughed.

"So, the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that," he said.

Ross's comments sparked backlash from Democrats who said the wealthy Commerce secretary is out-of-touch with the concerns of workers.

“To express confusion over why these hard-working Americans — many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck — would seek assistance in feeding their families demonstrates an uninformed understanding of their situation,” Wexton said in her statement. “I hope Secretary Ross will join me this weekend to lend a hand to our federal employees and learn just how the shutdown has turned their lives upside-down."

The federal government has been in a partial shutdown since Dec. 22, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE at odds with Democrats over his demand for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.