Obama’s Message to Feds: 'None of This Is Fair to You'

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

As agencies scrambled to implement their shutdown procedures Tuesday, President Obama greeted the nation’s 2 million civilian federal employees and 1.4 million active-duty military members with a letter, in which he took “a moment to tell you what you mean to me -- and to our country.”

Obama noted the employees’ varying roles in providing national and economic security, mentioning guarding borders, enforcing civil rights, helping expand small businesses and exporters, and those “who guide hundreds of people each day through the glory of America’s national parks and monuments.”

Federal workers perform all this, Obama said, “in a political climate that, too often in recent years, has treated you like a punching bag. You have endured three years of a federal pay freeze, harmful sequester cuts, and now, a shutdown of our government. And yet, you persevere, continuing to serve the American people with passion, professionalism and skill.”

The president told employees that “none of this is fair to you,” and he acknowledged that if such treatment continues, “it will make it more difficult to keep attracting the kind of driven, patriotic, idealistic Americans to public service that our citizens deserve.”

He called public service “noble,” quoting President George H. W. Bush’s comment that it is “what our system of self-government depends on.”

He then broached the politics of the budget stalemate on Capitol Hill, saying, “The shutdown was completely preventable. ….The House of Representatives can end it as soon as it follows the Senate’s lead, and funds your work in the United States Government without trying to attach highly controversial and partisan measures to the process.”

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