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'Wasteful Border Wall Fetish': South Florida Democrats Criticize Trump During Week 3 Of Shutdown

Lily Oppenheimer
Democratic U.S. Reps Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Ted Deutch support furloughed South Florida HUD workers Denise Benjamin and Peggy Johannsen in Plantation on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.

Sunrise resident Peggy Johannsen is grieving for her niece, who died unexpectedly last month. Her father also recently passed away. On top of expenses from two funerals, she also has a looming February mortgage payment. 

But Johannsen, who works in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Miami office, doesn't know when she'll get paid next. She is one of 800,000 federal workers affected by the partial government shutdown. 

“Of course, these losses are stressful enough, and now I have to run up more credit card debt to join my family in mourning,” Johannsen said Tuesday in Plantation, at an event with Democratic U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Ted Deutch.

If the shutdown drags out for longer than two months, she said she might resort to borrowing from her retirement savings.

"This isn’t the way a president should govern, this isn’t the way you legislate," she said. “No one likes the idea of not getting paid...whether you support the wall, or not. The bottom line is, this is not our fight. And we are sick of being used as pawns.”

Johannsen's HUD coworker Denise Benjamin, who is also struggling from depleted savings and an unpaid mortgage, said she "decided to do an AirBnb" in her home. 

The Reps. shamed President Trump for what they call a “temper tantrum” over a “wasteful border wall fetish” that has now become one of the longest-running government shutdowns in history.

Wasserman-Schultz told reporters at the news conference that the shutdown will also soon affect average Floridians who rely on government programs like SNAP or visit national parks.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, is the nation's largest food aid program that. In 2017, it provided assistance to 42 million Americans. The Washington Post reported that, come February, the Department of Agriculture may make severe cuts to the food stamp program. 

“When will a lack of environmental inspections impact our water supply? When will the shutdown endanger our air safety system? And when will this result in what would have been a totally preventable tragedy,” she said.

Deutch called on Republicans in Congress to act as Democrats continue passing spending bills to reopen the government.

“We’re going to pass a bill to fund the treasury and IRS, so that hardworking Americans can continue to interact with the IRS and get their tax refunds,” Deutch said.