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Colorado Dem delegation talks shutdown at Denver International Airport

The government shutdown over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border barrier has entered its 24th day and is the longest in American history. State Dems call the shutdown a "travesty."
Credit: 9NEWS

DENVER — On the same day President Donald Trump rejected a suggestion to temporarily reopen the government as negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue, the Colorado Congressional delegation held a press conference at Denver International Airport.

Monday morning, U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden), Joe Neguse (D-Fort Collins), and Jason Crow (D-Aurora) were joined by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) called for an end to the longest shutdown in American history. 

Now 24 days in, the partial government shutdown has happened because Democrats won't give the president $5.7 billion for a proposed border barrier between the United States and Mexico - a 2016 Trump campaign promise.

The proposal to temporarily reopen the government put forth by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) would have opened the federal government for several weeks and allowed for negotiations on the border wall to continue.

"I'm not interested," Trump said. "I want to get it solved. I don't want to just delay."

The president also backed off from a suggestion he may declare a national emergency at the border, telling reporters on Monday he wasn't looking to call one.

Colorado Democrats gathered at Denver International Airport Monday morning to call on the Republican Party to end the government shutdown.

"This is a travesty," began Bennet at the press conference, echoing his statement last week ahead of the president's national address. "There's no reason why this government should be shut down over the president's temper tantrum - it's now been 24 days."

Bennet argued the shutdown could be over by the end of the day - something he and the president appear to agree on - though, how to end the shutdown is where they diverge.

RELATED | Congress approves back pay for federal workers once shutdown ends

"[Sen. Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell should put a bill on the floor that the Senate has voted for unanimously, and reopen the government - and if the president vetoes it," Bennet continued, "the House would override that veto tomorrow - and the U.S. Senate would override it the day after that."

Colorado's longest-serving congresswoman, Rep. DeGette, repeated the sentiments brought up by her colleague from the upper chamber. She added that legislation to reopen the government has already passed both the House and the Senate at different times. She called on McConnell to call for a vote.

"It's getting to the point where it's way beyond the issue of Donald Trump and his wall, it's getting to the point of the safety of every single passenger who's flying through this airport," DeGette said in her remarks.

She's referring to the shutdown affecting Transportation Security Administration agents; none have received pay since the start of the shutdown on Dec. 22, 2018. TSA agents have been working with the promise of getting their back-pay, i.e. what they're owed by the government for the hours they've worked.

Despite the promise of back-pay, many TSA agents at airports around the country have been staging "sick-outs." A terminal at Houston's airport had to be shut down due to staffing issues related to the shutdown. DIA has said no such problems have occurred there yet.

DeGette pointed to not just TSA agents, but others who are affected by missing work and pay during her time speaking at DIA.

"I heard from a constituent of mine this week who is afraid - she's a diabetic," DeGette said. "She can't afford to get her insulin because she's not getting a paycheck and she's afraid she's going to die at night."

Since all federal employees have missed at least one paycheck, many groups and restaurants around the state are making meals and supplies available to federal workers struggling to get through the shutdown.

RELATED | Here are Colorado organizations, restaurants offering freebies to furloughed employees

The shutdown is also affecting those who need Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits - known colloquially as "food stamps" - as the deadline to re-certify their eligibility is noon Tuesday. Denver's Human Services office is extending its Monday hours until 7 p.m. to help. The office will reopen at 7 a.m. on Tuesday to also give applicants more time.

Perlmutter, who represents the western edge of the metro area, said that there are thousands of workers in his district who have been hurt by this shutdown.

"[Federal workers] shouldn't be a pawn in [Trump's] political game..." he said at the press conference. "We are very lucky to have such a strong federal workforce but right now they're getting hurt and we've got to do something about that."

The wall Colorado's delegation has been so against is actually gaining popularity with America's voters. According to a WaPo/ABC poll released over the weekend, support for the wall has grown from 34 percent this time last year to 42 percent now.

A majority of Americans - 54 percent - are still against a wall.

Colorado's freshmen representatives - Neguse and Crow - both focused their words on issues popular in their district. Crow pointed out that one in five affected federal workers are veterans and Neguse decried the trouble facing Rocky Mountain National Park.

In Colorado, at least 1,500 workers are affected by the shutdown.

When asked by the media in attendance why the Colorado delegation isn't sitting down with the president to hammer out a deal, Perlmutter said the Democratic leadership has. He's likely referring to the meeting Trump had with Pelosi and Schumer last week that went nowhere.

"This is the guy who supposedly wrote 'The Art of the Deal' and he isn't sitting down to really negotiate," Perlmutter continued.

RELATED | Federal workers seek loans, second jobs as shutdown lingers

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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