Group representing federal agents warns shutdown has become "extremely dangerous"

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

2 bills to reopen government fail in Senate

A group representing federal law enforcement officers sent a letter to President Trump Thursday asking him to reopen the government, saying the impasse over funding has resulted in an "extremely dangerous situation."

In the letter, Nathan Catura, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), noted this week marks the second paycheck federal workers are missing due to the government shutdown. All of the workers FLEOA represents — some 27,000 law enforcement officers across 65 federal agencies — are working without pay, Catura said, because their positions are considered essential for national security.

"The situation has become so dire that a GoFundMe page has been established for federal employees, soup kitchens are advertising availability, and donations are being made around the nation to assist federal employees, including federal law enforcement officers," the letter said. "Mr. President, it is reprehensible that those working to protect America are being put in this perilous position."

Catura said many of the officers FLEOA represents "conduct complex investigations including tracking terrorists, identifying foreign actors, and protecting elected officials, including you and your family," and making them work without pay is "antithetical to the way our nation should be treating those that protect us." He also said federal investigations are less effective without research, analysis and technology.

"This is an extremely dangerous situation that threatens the lives of our members and all Americans," Catura said.

The letter briefly referred to Mr. Trump's request for funding for a border wall. The president is currently refusing to sign any government funding bill which does not include money for the wall.

"Mr. President, we all agree that our nation's borders need to be secured but right now, those we've asked to do so are more focused on how to pay their bills," the letter concluded.

Two bills aiming to reopen the government fell short in the Senate on Thursday. A bill crafted after Mr. Trump's proposal to fund the border wall in exchange for temporary protections for Dreamers and foreign disaster victims failed to reach 60 votes, as did a Democratic bill that would have temporarily funded and reopened the government.

After the votes, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders made it clear the president won't sign any bill that doesn't have a "down payment" on the wall.

"Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Schumer are meeting now to see whether or not they can work out of the deadlock. As was made clear to Sen. Lindsay (sic) Graham, the three-week CR would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall," Sanders said.

Roughly 800,000 federal workers are going unpaid during the longest shutdown on record. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sparked backlash when he told CBNC on Thursday morning he doesn't understand why federal workers need to visit food banks instead of just taking out loans.

"Well, I know they are and I don't really quite understand why," Ross told CNBC, on federal workers at food banks. "Because, as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake, say borrowing from a bank or a credit union are in effect federally guaranteed. So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there's no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it and we've seen a number of ads from financial institutions doing that."

First published on January 24, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Grace Segers

Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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