U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., like many in Congress, has growing concerns about the potential impact of a government shutdown on federal workers, military personnel and contractors, many of whom live in the D.C. area.
He said he believes his constituents in Virginia will feel it more than any other part of the country, if the government shuts down this Saturday at midnight.
“There’s no state, on a per capital basis, that is harder hit during a shutdown, than Virginia,” Warner said.
Warner points out that the Commonwealth has more than 170,000 federal employees and tens of thousands of military personnel stationed at bases across the state, as well as at the Pentagon.
He also notes that Virginia is home to a large number of federal contractors.
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“Even though they may be ultimately paid, when a shutdown is over, in the interim they don’t get paid,” he said. “You can’t punt on your mortgage.”
Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., on Tuesday issued a joint statement urging House Republicans not to let a shutdown occur, noting it could be “particularly devastating” for members of the military.
“In Virginia alone, 129,400 active-duty service members will be forced to continue working without pay — a phenomenon that will undermine our national security and threaten the well-being of military families,” they said. “Service members should never be put in this situation.”
Rep. Glenn Ivey, D-Md., said his constituents are also worried about how a shutdown could affect them.
“We have a lot of federal employees in my district,” he said. “Even though they get paid eventually, some of them are going to need the payments now to cover their rent, their food, their immediate expenses.”
Warner still has bad memories of the shutdown between 2018 and 2019 that lasted 35 days, the longest shutdown in the nation’s history.
“I just don’t get anyone who’s calculating that somehow this is in the country’s best interest, or even in their short-term political interest,” he said.
Warner said, as he has in the past, that a shutdown is “stupidity on steroids.”
In 2019, Warner proposed legislation called the ‘Stop Stupidity Act,’ to try to prevent future shutdowns.
He believes members of Congress shouldn’t get paid during a shutdown.
Other lawmakers have proposed various bills aimed at preventing shutdowns, but none of them have passed.
How would the shutdown affect the upcoming Virginia election?
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, said a government shutdown “really does hurt Virginia.”
“We have so many people who work for the government or who are a part of the government,” Youngkin said. “That’s just a reality.”
The political stakes are high for Youngkin, as early voting just began in the Nov. 7 legislative elections that will determine which party controls Virginia’s General Assembly.
“There’s still time to work something out,” Youngkin said.
When asked whether a shutdown would hurt the Republicans in the election, Youngkin pushed back and put blame on President Biden.
“I think President Biden has a huge role to play here,” Youngkin said. “He’s got a responsibility to lead and try to bring people together.”
Youngkin said he would like to see Biden “fully engage here and not ignore it and just let it happen.”
Maryland leader calls shutdown impacts ‘unacceptable’
According to Sen. Chris Van Hollen, the impact of a government shutdown will be heavily felt in Maryland’s military class.
The shutdown, he said, “could force over 1.3 million active-duty troops to work without pay — including nearly 30,000 here in Maryland. That’s unacceptable.”
He added that these disruptions could extend to daily necessities like Meals on Wheels services, impact wait times at airports and more. For students in the area, the University of Maryland said, the shutdown could bring about disruptions for student aid services.
“Besides delaying paychecks to millions of federal employees and forcing operational cuts at a spectrum of agencies, the potential federal funding gap could have a variety of impacts on the University of Maryland community, from research to federal services for international students,” the school said in a message to the community.
Clinical trials and research done through federal partnerships may continue for some, but the White House has determined that trials at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, would be among those ceasing if a shutdown does happen.
“New patients, many of whom are desperately waiting for a chance at new treatment through a clinical trial, will be turned away,” the White House said.
Likewise, the Small Business Administration, which has approved over $340 million in 7a and 504 loans for Maryland Projects, will be unable to accept, review or approve new business loans for small businesses in the state, Virginia and the District.
DC restaurant pleas ‘don’t shut it down’
In downtown Washington, restaurants spent much of the pandemic struggling to keep their doors open as they saw feds who showed up for lunch and dinner literally disappear overnight. Now, as they see crowds build again, the threat of a government shutdown is not welcome news for the District of Columbia.
“It does not help, trying to recover,” said Yared Betsate, general manager at Ella’s Wood Fired Kitchen in Penn Quarter.
Federal employees from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce, and even the White House are regulars at the restaurant.
“I mean, being downtown here and in the Penn Quarter area, you’ve got all the federal buildings around here, so it’s definitely going to impact us,” said Betsate.
Betsate said at least half of his customers, especially during the lunch hour, are in due to government-related work in the area.
“You get a lot of lobbyists … and Gallup polls is upstairs,” he said.
There are also the crowds that the Smithsonian museums bring to the area. Many of those would close if we don’t see a budget deal in time.
Betsate said when it comes to timing, at least hockey season is about to pick up, so crowds from Capital One Arena will help alleviate some of the sting should the government shut down, but he hopes it doesn’t come to that.
His plea to government leaders: “Don’t shut it down.”
WTOP’s Nick Iannelli, Ivy Lyons and Mike Murillo contributed to this report.