Veterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together'

Veterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together'
© Stefani Reynolds

Several veterans groups held a joint press conference Tuesday demanding an end to a partial government shutdown, saying that tens of thousands of veterans who now work as federal employees were paying the price as they are either furloughed or required to work without pay. 

“We ask the president and the Congress to get together, get your act together and get this situation resolved,” Regis Riley, national commander of American Veterans, said.

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The White House Office of Management and Budget estimates that the agencies impacted by the shutdown employ at least 150,000 veterans.

The press conference, hosted by Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), comes as the shutdown entered its 25th day, extending its record as the longest shutdown in U.S. history. About a quarter of the government has been without funding since Dec. 22, and 800,000 federal employees have missed a paycheck. 

“We do not want anyone to miss a second check, which is why VFW calls on the administration and Congress to reach an agreement that takes care of our Coast Guard and the hundreds of thousands of other dedicated employees whose daily job it is to help the rest of America sleep better at night,” B.J. Lawrence, the VFW national commander, said.

Active-duty Coast Guard members, who fall under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, did not receive their most recent paycheck, marking the first time in history a branch of the military missed a payment “during a lapse in government appropriations,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said in a statement.

The White House and congressional Democrats are currently at an impasse over government funding, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE’s demand that $5.7 billion for a border wall be included in any spending bill. Both the House and the Senate have passed spending bills to reopen the government, but the president has signaled he wouldn’t sign anything that did not include the requested funds.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? Pelosi says Dems 'have to be ready to throw a punch — for the children' in 2020 MORE (D-Calif.) emphasized the shutdown’s impact on veterans Wednesday, hoping to pressure the president with a constituency whose interests he often claims to champion.

“Our veterans are very adversely affected by this. If we want to support our veterans, we will not hurt their credit rating. And that’s what missing a mortgage, a rental payment, a car payment and the rest does to everyone’s credit rating,” Pelosi said at an event with a group of furloughed federal workers on Capitol Hill.

The joint press conference was held by a portion of the group known as the “big six,” which includes The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Veterans and Disabled American Veterans. Together they represent nearly 5 million members and hold significant sway in the capital. 

However, a resolution to the shutdown is still not in sight as freshman and sophomore House Democrats, many considered to be moderates, refused to meet with Trump at the White House on Tuesday to hammer out a spending deal.