WASHINGTON – The federal government should reimburse its employees working without pay during the government shutdown for their child-care costs, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar proposed on Thursday.
“Nearly 800,000 federal employees ... are about to miss their second paycheck because of the president’s manufactured crisis,” Omar said at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol. “Just because their paycheck stopped doesn’t mean the bills don’t keep piling up.”
The federal shutdown was in its 34th day on Thursday, with no immediate end in sight after two bills to end it both failed in the U.S. Senate.
The measure dubbed the “Federal Worker Childcare Protection Act of 2019” is Omar’s first bill introduction as a new member of Congress. She was joined at the news conference by three other women who are also members of the House Democratic Caucus; Omar said the issue resonated with her personally as a mother of three who has struggled with child care costs.
Omar didn’t have an immediate estimate of how much it would cost to reimburse child care costs for potentially hundreds of thousands of federal workers. She said she intends the reimbursements to be retroactive to the start of the shutdown, and that she thinks the costs should be covered even if the federal government reopens soon.
House Democratic leadership has not yet committed to advance Omar’s bill. But she said it’s of a piece with other Democratic proposals meant to lessen the impact on the shutdown for federal employees working without pay.
“We will continue to vote on bills to reopen government and send them over to the Senate, but we are doing piecemeal bills to address some of the issues workers are dealing with,” she said.
Omar and her colleagues had harsh words for President Donald Trump.
“The occupant of this White House is a threat to the American people,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a newly elected Democrat from Massachusetts.
The lawmakers at the news conference said they had not yet seen an offer to Trump reportedly in the works from House Democratic leadership that would direct more than $5 billion to border security measures. Omar said she still thinks the federal government should be reopened before any border security negotiations ensue.
Omar’s public focus this week has been the federal shutdown; she also held a news conference to talk about it earlier this week in Minnesota. But for the second week in a row, she also found herself responding to controversy generated by her social media posts.
That was after she deleted several tweets related to a confrontation last week near the Lincoln Memorial between an American Indian activist and a group of Catholic high school students from Kentucky.
“I feel sorry there has been blame and hurt,” Omar said. She said she was motivated by concern for Nathan Phillips, the Indian activist.
“I wanted to hold him in a space in my heart and have a conversation about what hate and discrimination look like in our country,” she said.
Omar’s Twitter flaps have made her a frequent target of Republicans. “Rep. Omar is now in a position of power and should realize her words and tweets have consequences,” Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said in a statement released Wednesday — one of numerous Republican hits against her in recent days.