AP NEWS

New Congresswoman Renews Call to End Government Shutdown

January 8, 2019

LOWELL -- On her first day back in the 3rd Congressional District after being sworn in, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan renewed her emphasis on the need to reopen the federal government, calling the shutdown triggered by President Donald Trump “shameful.”

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees, including what Trahan estimated to be at least 7,000 in Massachusetts, have been furloughed or asked to work without pay for more than two weeks during the partial government shutdown. Trahan’s first vote in Congress last week was on a House Democratic proposal to reopen the government -- the same one that the Senate had passed unanimously before Trump’s demands of a barrier along the southern border halted the process -- and she said lawmakers planned to “work our tails off” to ensure a breakthrough is reached.

“Too many people right now are trying to tie (the shutdown) to border security, but the reality is we can open eight agencies of government tomorrow or today,” Trahan said Monday. “We’ve got TSA agents who are calling in sick, we’ve got the E-Verify program that’s not being used right now, we’ve got Social Security claims that aren’t being worked upon. I think we have to bring those stories so people understand what a government shutdown actually is and who’s being impacted.”

Her remarks came during an interview with The Sun’s editorial board, several hours before she was scheduled to meet in her Lowell office with federal employees affected by the shutdown. Trahan said she had also met last week with air-traffic controllers who are working without pay.

Despite Trahan’s sharp criticism about the shutdown, she spoke at length about her optimism that the 116th Congress, one that features a historically diverse group of new lawmakers, can find common ground. Her tone follows a lengthy campaign in which she often positioned herself as more moderate and willing to reach bipartisan compromise than her Democratic primary opponents.

“I always hypothesized, had a feeling in my gut, that there are opportunities for Republicans and Democrats to work together,” Trahan said. “After spending a week in Williamsburg with my Republican colleagues in the freshman class, I know now that there are opportunities. That fills me with a lot of hope.”

She named several Republican representatives she hopes to work with, including Mike Turner of Ohio, who worked closely with Trahan’s predecessor, Niki Tsongas, on legislation improving protection for sexual-assault survivors in the military. But much of the potential, Trahan said, exists in the newest lawmakers like herself.

“Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, there’s an energy in this country around this freshman class doing things differently,” she said. “If we could actually be the model of that and bring that to leadership and bring that to people who have been here for a long time, that’s what people want.”

Less than a week into office, Trahan is still ironing out certain specific details of how her tenure will go. She is taking over Tsongas’ district office in Lowell’s Boott Mills, and, like her predecessor, hopes to continue hosting regular meetings with constituents at Fitchburg State University.

Many of Trahan’s legislative priorities remain the same as what she discussed during the campaign, too. In her first few days in office, she supported H.R. 1, a Democratic package that proposes anti-corruption measures, reforms to the campaign-finance system and greater protections for voting rights.

Trahan said Monday she is hopeful that Congress can make progress on “re-engineer(ing) our education system” through universal kindergarten, sharper oversight of colleges and universities where costs are skyrocketing and an increased role for vocational and alternative schools.

“If you proactively think around the kinds of jobs we attract and retain in this regional economy, are we providing the right lanes of education to get kids into those jobs?” Trahan said. “I’d like to find a way to do it on the local level and make it contagious to other areas.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.