WASHINGTON -- Calling Congress "childish," a group of 100 women state legislators asked lawmakers Monday to "shut down the shutdown."
Members of the Women Legislators Lobby (WiLL), a nonpartisan network of state lawmakers that is part of Women's Actions for New Directions (WAND), held a press conference to decry ongoing congressional gridlock over funding the federal government. The women were gathered for a conference in a hotel blocks from the U.S. Capitol. They planned to meet with members of Congress on Tuesday to press state issues, but are now worried an impending government shutdown will stop the meetings.
"Congress seems ready to shut the doors; we are here to say shut down the shutdown," Georgia state Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), the WiLL president, said during the press conference. "Halt this manufactured budget crisis. There will be economic ripples across the country."
The group outlined a series of impacts it said the shutdown will have on specific states and across the country. The construction industry and public works projects were among the areas of concern. Colorado state Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver) said her state is attempting to rebuild roads, bridges and other infrastructure damaged in the recent floods by a Dec. 1 deadline. A delay in federal funds to help finance the projects will set back the state's recovery, she added, leaving a flood-impacted Colorado vulnerable to future natural disasters.
Minnesota state Senate President Sandy Pappas (D-St. Paul) said that with her state's short construction window, a shutdown would harm projects currently in progress and potentially set work back until 2014. Ohio state Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) said that many economic development projects in her state and in others depend on federal matching funds. A government shutdown will stop those projects and delay the creation of new jobs, she said.
Williams noted that Colorado is home to Lockheed Martin. She said she's been hearing from employees that a government shutdown will impact the federal contracts the company has, hampering their ability to work with small businesses in Colorado to complete projects. Williams said the small businesses depend on the payments from those contracts.
"If those payments don't arrive, those businesses will be affected," Williams said. "They may close their doors."
The group also outlined a series of steps they said need to be taken in order to balance the federal budget. Among them are cuts to defense spending, including cutting what they described as continued use of Cold War weaponry and the F-35 fighter jet. The money would be better spent on education and other domestic programs, which would better enhance national security, the group said.
Alaska state House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau) told The Huffington Post after the press conference that she's already beginning to see the impacts of cuts in her district -- including an elderly veteran who she said was having problems receiving housing benefits through a federal grant and was at risk of becoming homeless.
"When you can't even get housing for an elderly person who served their country, there is something wrong," Kerttula said. "That is what this shutdown does to us."