Butterfield on Government Shutdown: We Should All Care


Rep. Butterfield

Now that Democrats have regained the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 116th Congress, NC Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) says, they have to study how they first lost it back in 2010, and make sure that that doesn’t happen again.

One way is to make sure that they address the pressing needs of the American people, and right now, ending the three-week long (partial) government shutdown and getting 800,000 federal workers back on the job”…has to be number one on our agenda.”

380,000 are considered “essential” federal workers, required to work without a pay check, while 420,000 have been furloughed to remain home, also without a paycheck on January 11th.

Many of the workers are Black. Approximately 7,000 federal workers in North Carolina are affected.

“We should all care,” insisted Congressman Butterfield, who is beginning his eighth term in Congress. “These are people with families. They are breadwinners, they have obligations,” he said, noting that beyond the workers, people needing food stamps are now having to go without as a result.

With President Trump insisting that he get $5.7 billion to build a steel wall at the U.S. border with Mexico to keep immigrant families out, and Congressional Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowing that they will not appropriate any money for a wall, but only $1.6 billion for needed technological upgrades to maintain border security, divided government in Washington is now the new reality.

“With the Senate in Republican control, and the House in Democratic control, and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - the man is right-wing Republican who is out of step with the mainstream of American citizens, we have to deal with the lineup as we have it,” Rep. Butterfield says.

“The question is, “Do we surrender to Pres. Trump? And the answer is “No,” Butterfield maintains. Thus far negotiations with Trump’s senior staff have gotten nowhere, with the White House maintaining that without the wall, the stalemate could go on for weeks, months or years. There are reports that Congressional Republicans, fearing voter backlash, are beginning to buckle under the pressure.

“It is not who we are as a country,” Butterfield maintained. “We do not erect walls, especially to stop people fleeing from tyranny and corruption.”

Beyond solving the shutdown, Rep. Butterfield is happy about the fact that for the first time in its history, the Congressional Black Caucus – of which he is a former chairman - has 55 members, giving the panel more power and leverage in the new Congress than ever before.

“We’re essentially 22 percent of the House Democratic Caucus, …and we plan to use our leverage,” Butterfield said, adding that all of the new young members are bright and energetic.

Butterfield says the new CBC now has a “massive” agenda, with top priorities being saving the Affordable Act from further erosion (a Texas judge found it “unconstitutional” just before Christmas), and pushing for renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which the former Republican majority put on the backburner during its eight-year dominance.

He also is hopeful that Congress and Trump can see eye-to-eye on funding much needed trillion dollar infrastructure across the country to fix crumbling roads and bridges. Butterfield says the Black community benefits from such funding with needed jobs and infrastructure improvements where they live.

“Let’s hope there will be some bipartisanship,” Rep. Butterfield said when reminded that the Republican-majority Senate could stop much of what the Democratic controlled House passes.

“As the popularity of Donald Trump goes down, and the Republicans see that Trump is bringing down their brand and viability, I think that you will see Republicans disregarding President Trump, and dealing directly with Democrats in passing legislation.”