Dozens of Shutdown-Impacted Workers Will Accompany Lawmakers to State of the Union
Members bring guests to highlight those who went without pay for 35 days.
A number of lawmakers are using President Trump’s upcoming State of the Union address to remind the nation why the speech is taking place this week and not on its originally scheduled date.
At least a dozen members of Congress will bring a federal employee or contractor impacted by the government shutdown as their guest to the annual presidential address before the joint Congress. Trump was originally set to make the speech in January, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., refused to invite him while the government was still shut down.
With less than two weeks until another potential shutdown, many lawmakers are using the event to highlight those who were furloughed or forced to work without pay for 35 days. Here is a non-comprehensive list of lawmakers who will bring a shutdown-impacted individual to the State of the Union:
- Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.: Cicilline will bring Jamie Green, a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller who worked without immediate pay during the shutdown. Green’s husband, Gordon, is also an air traffic controller. Green said she hoped the shutdown and missed pay "is something no other working man or woman ever has to go through."
- Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa.: Cartwright will bring Allen Fritz, an air traffic controller in Reading, Pa.
- Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.: Amer Al-Mudallal, a chemist at the Environmental Protection Agency furloughed during the shutdown, will accompany Connolly to the State of the Union. Al-Mudallal said that while he supports border security, he was “disappointed to see the suffering of federal employees and their families being used for political gain.” His wife also works at the EPA and was furloughed during the agency’s closure.
- Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla.: Crist will bring Chelsey Gutierrez, whose husband works for the Coast Guard and missed a paycheck during the shutdown. She told the Tampa Bay Times she was selected by Crist’s office after writing to the congressman about the struggles she faced during her husband’s deployment when he was not receiving pay, as she could not get a job because she had to stay home to watch her children.
- Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.: Ralph Velez, a Transportation Security Administration officer, will accompany Demings. The congresswoman said she invited Velez "so he can tell his story to lawmakers."
- Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif.: Hill will bring Chrissy Lewis, an air traffic controller, as her guest. Lewis is a single mother who previously experienced homelessness. The freshman congresswoman said she will fight to "ensure a shutdown of this kind never happens again, and that hardworking families are not used as political pawns."
- Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H.: Kuster’s guest will be Jeff Aulbach, an air traffic controller who missed two paychecks during the shutdown. Kuster said feds like Aulbach “displayed their commitment to serving the public” and his attendance will “underscore the threat that government shutdowns pose to public safety.”
- Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.: Holmes Norton will bring Faye Smith, a contract security officer for the Smithsonian Institution, as her guest. Smith will not receive back pay for the wages she missed during the shutdown, which Holmes Norton is trying to change.
- Rep. David Price, D-N.C.: Ken Krebs, a chemist at the Environmental Protection Agency for 21 years, will accompany Price to the address. Price said he hopes to bring attention to Krebs' "lifesaving environmental work" that "was put on hold" during the shutdown.
- Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif.: Ruiz will bring Dave Sherman, a TSA employee who worked without pay during the shutdown, as his guest.
- Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla.: Soto will bring Douglas Lowe, an FAA airways transportation systems specialist, as his guest. Lowe called the invitation a “tremendous honor” and said he looked forward to “telling our story of how the shutdown affected our community and pray that we can prevent it from happening again.”
- Rep. Tom Souzzi, D-N.Y.: Kevin Maney, an FAA employee in New York who went without pay during the shutdown, will accompany Souzzi to the address.
- Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.: Shyan Lasater-Bailey, an air traffic controller in Palm Springs, Calif., will join Takano for the speech. Lasater-Bailey "brings a first-hand perspective to the harm government shutdowns inflict on federal workers and their families," Takano said.
- Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va.: Wexton’s guest will also be an FAA employee. Linda McCray, an employee at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center, was furloughed during the shutdown and will attend the address.
- Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.: Monica Hughes, an army reservist and TSA officer who worked without immediate pay at the Pittsburgh International Airport during the shutdown, will accompany Casey to the president’s speech. Hughes said she had to apply for food stamps and accept donations from friends and family “to stay afloat” while she missed paychecks.
- Sen Dick Durbin, D-Ill.: Durbin will bring Toby Hauck, an air traffic controller in Chicago. "Simply put," Durbin said, "President Trump’s shutdown was a kick in the gut to Toby Hauck and all of his fellow air traffic controllers."
- Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.: Harris will be joined by Trisha Perisi-Dybvik, an air traffic control specialist who lost her home during the 2017 Thomas fire. Her husband also missed pay as an air traffic controller during the shutdown. The 35 days without pay “added a further layer of stress to our already challenging situation,” Perisi-Dybvik said.
- Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.: Murray will also be joined by a controller, Alex Navarro from Seattle.
- Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: The Senate minority leader will bring Ronan Byrne, an air traffic controller in New York, as his guest. Byrne's wife took the year off work to raise their kids, a Schumer spokeswoman said, so the family had no income.
- Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.: Van Hollen will be accompanied by an impacted federal contractor. Lila Johnson works as a cleaning services contractor for the Agriculture Department, and will not receive any back pay for the time she missed. Van Hollen has fought to ensure contractors earn retroactive wages, but his efforts have so far been to no avail.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.: Sajid Shahriar will accompany Warren to the speech. Shahriar was furloughed from his job at the Housing and Urban Development Department during the shutdown. "Government workers like Sajid shouldn't be used as bargaining chips," Warren said.
- Sen Tim Kaine, D-Va.: Kaine will bring Paul Rinaldi, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, to the State of the Union. Rinaldi’s group pressured lawmakers to end the shutdown by highlighting the impact the shutdown was having on air safety.
- Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md.: Another union leader, J. David Cox, head of the American Federation of Government Employees, will join Brown for the speech. “We hope tonight that President Trump sets aside his extremely political agenda and lets the American people know that working people will not be held hostage again in less than two weeks,” Cox said.
While most lawmakers are bringing shutdown-impacted employees to the State of the Union to stress the difficulties those workers endured, some are doing so to boost Trump’s call for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas: Roy will join Kaine in bringing a federal employee union president to the address. Brandon Judd, who serves as head of the National Border Patrol Council and joined Trump from the White House to announce his support for the president’s shutdown strategy, will attend the speech with the congressman.
- Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas: Cornyn will be joined by the Border Patrol’s former Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Manny Padilla, who currently serves as director of Border Patrol’s Joint Task Force-West.
- President Trump: One of the president's guests for his own speech will be Elvin Hernandez, a special agent at Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. The White House highlighted Hernandez's role in investigating human trafficking and transnational organized crime.
This story has been updated.