Lori Trahan says lawmakers cannot allow government shutdowns to become ‘the new normal’

"The only crisis right now is one of the president’s making."

Lori Trahan speaks after a close win in the Democratic Primary.
Congresswoman Lori Trahan. –Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

When a partial federal government shutdown dragged on for a record 21 days in 1995, Lori Trahan, then a staffer for U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, felt the unprecedented situation would never happen again.

“Sadly that feeling was wrong,” she said Tuesday morning, as she delivered her first remarks from the House of Representatives floor as a 3rd District lawmaker.

Joining fellow Democrats, Trahan decried what is now the longest shutdown in the country’s history, as furloughed government employees entered their 25th day without work amid President Donald Trump’s demands that Congress sign off on over $5 billion in funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Roughly 800,000 federal workers are affected by the partial shutdown, with approximately 380,000 on unpaid leave.

Trahan said Congress cannot allow “shutting down the government over a policy debate to become the new normal.”

“I oppose the wall. Experts say the wall won’t stop the flow of drugs or prevent visa overstays. And the people who live at the border don’t want it,” Trahan said. “But wherever you stand on funding a border wall, holding federal employees and their families hostage should be off the table.

“It’s time to put people first, get back to work, and end this government shutdown,” she added.

Trahan met with furloughed IRS employees in Andover last week, she said. She highlighted the struggles of veterans trying to afford prescriptions and parents worrying about — and wondering — how they will provide food to their families. Nearly 7,500 federal employees are impacted in Massachusetts.

“A few days earlier, I spoke with Mick, an air traffic controller at Logan airport who, after hearing President Trump’s assurances from the Oval Office that the budget standoff wouldn’t lead to a shutdown, felt comfortable splurging on Christmas presents for his wife and four children,” Trahan said. “Now, with the bills coming due and his paystub reading zero, he and his family are confronted with anxiety and financial hardship.”

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The Democrat-controlled House has passed bills that would reopen the government, although those attempts have been shot down in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Trahan said, action stalls on bills that address “real issues and crises,” like health care, gun violence, climate change, and the opioid epidemic.

“Each day of the shutdown is a day lost supporting education, improving roads and bridges, and providing affordable health care,” she said. “We have sent bill after bill to the upper chamber to provide border security and reopen the government.

“This week we will do so again,” Trahan continued. “If the president wants to improve border security, he should work with Democrats on real solutions.”

Trahan, who won her seat in November to succeed Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, is also now slated to further continue in her predecessor’s footsteps after she was officially appointed Tuesday to the House Armed Services Committee, where Tsongas was formerly a senior member.

The body has jurisdiction over cybersecurity, military operations, and defense research, among other areas.

“Massachusetts, and the 3rd Congressional District in particular, has some of the most cutting-edge military and research and development facilities in the country,” Trahan said in a statement. “I’m honored to be in a position to help continue that legacy of excellence.”