Federal workers group blasts Blackburn over shutdown vote

Federal workers group blasts Blackburn over shutdown vote

January 24th, 2019 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

NASHVILLE — Tennessee federal workers, labor groups and allies are blasting freshman U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn over the Brentwood Republican's refusal to support a Democratic plan to end the ongoing partial federal government shutdown.

The group also charges members haven't been able to reach Blackburn by phone, that she doesn't have an office email address to contact her office, that she's ignoring their letters and hasn't bothered to open an office in Nashville, Tennessee's second largest city.

"We've been trying to call and send letters to Senator Blackburn, but her line is constantly busy, and she hasn't answered any of our letters," said Heath Harwell, a furloughed Internal Revenue Service employee and leader of National Treasury Employees Union Local 39, in a statement.

Harwell said "Marsha doesn't have any local offices, and she doesn't even have an email address for her Senate office."

So critics said they intend to rally Friday in front of former Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's one-time office in Nashville's West End section and demand the federal government reopen and federal workers be paid. They also are calling for Blackburn, a former U.S. representative, to "be more available to Tennesseans."

Blackburn's office had no immediate comment, with a top staffer reportedly unavailable because he was traveling back to Tennessee.

Blackburn voted against the Democratic plan to end President Donald Trump's partial federal government shutdown over his demands for a border wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. 

She voted for a Republican bill pushed by Trump.

Proposals by both the Democrats and the GOP to reopen the government failed. But the Democratic plan got more votes, 52-44, as opposed to the Trump-backed plan, which failed 50-47, according to Senate roll call tallies. 

In a statement after the vote, Blackburn said she voted to "secure the border and end the partial government shutdown."

"President Trump and Leader McConnell are to be commended for putting forth legislation that secures the border and re-opens the closed portions of the government," she stated. "I voted to support the President's plan to build the wall, increase border security and open the closed portions of our government."

Blackburn hit Democrats for what she called their "stubborn refusal to negotiate in good faith throughout this process," which she called "deeply regrettable. The Senate is doing their job and it is time for the House to do theirs."

Democrats control the House.    

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., voted for Senate Democrats' plan, as well as the Republican plan put forward by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., voted for both as well.

"I voted twice today to re-open the federal government because it never should have been shut down; unfortunately both bills failed," Alexander said in a tweet.

Isakson said in his own tweet that "I voted today for two commonsense measures to reopen the government and end this senseless shutdown."

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., voted for the GOP plan and against the Democratic plan.

"@POTUS has tried to reopen negotiations w/ a reasonable proposal that not only fully funds the federal gov't, but also addresses critical border security & disaster relief," Perdue tweeted. "It's unacceptable that Senate Democrats continue to reject every opportunity to compromise in good faith."

Between 6,700 and 7,300 federal workers in Tennessee are impacted by the shutdown and are either working without pay or furloughed. The lengthy list includes Transportation Security Agency workers, air traffic controllers and a number of employees in Tennessee's three U.S. Attorney's offices. 

There are a total of about 25,000 federal workers in Tennessee, excluding Tennessee Valley Authority and Department of Defense related employees who aren't impacted by the shutdown.

The Nashville rally is being co-hosted by the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee and TN Indivisible. 

"We commend Senator Alexander for putting partisan politics aside and voting today to reopen the government," the groups said in a statement. "Blackburn, however, is continuing to use the financial security of nearly 25,000 Tennesseans who are federal workers as pawns in a political game. 

"What's worse," they added, "she isn't even available to be contacted by her constituents, many of which are federal employees who are furloughed or being forced to work without pay."

The groups charged that "by not opening an office, Blackburn is building a wall between herself and the people she's been elected to represent."

Contact AndySher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.


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