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House Democrats share shutdown stories from their constituents

Eight House Democrats who represent the capital region, home to the biggest concentration of federal workers, denounced the shutdown on Wednesday and slammed President Donald Trump.

During a news conference outside the Capitol, several members said their offices are being flooded with calls, emails and letters from constituents panicking about how they will pay their bills.

Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia said one furloughed worker told her they had to return Christmas presents they could no longer afford.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said a couple he represents will withdraw money from their retirement and kids' college funds prematurely - paying a penalty - in order to cover basic needs.

Rep. Don Beyer of Viriginia said he represents a disabled veteran who owns a small business dependent on government contractors and may have to lay off employees.

Each member ridiculed Trump's desire to build a border wall to curb what he describes as a "crisis."

"There is a crisis but it's not the lack of a wall," said Beyer, who represents about 80,000 federal workers and thousands of federal contractors. "Trump said a lot of words last night but not a single one of them was about the federal workforce."

The local members represent more than 360,000 federal workers, but 80 percent of people who work for the government are scattered throughout the country, they said.

Trading their service for "a fifth century wall that can be overcome with a ladder" makes no sense, Beyer said.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said Trump's prime time address was riddled with "racist, bigoted, xenophobic rhetoric."

It was "one of the most sordid moments in the history of the Oval Office, mimicking alt-right bigotry as a justification for shutting down the government," he said.

Rep Jamie Raskin of Maryland plans to hold a rally Wednesday night in Silver Spring to highlight the stories of federal workers on furlough.

"President Trump has succeeded in doing what no foreign enemy of the United States has ever done, which is to shut down the government of the United States for several weeks to the disadvantage of our own citizens," Raskin said.

Beyer, Connolly, Raskin and Wexton were joined by Maryland Reps. Steny Hoyer, John Sarbanes and David Trone, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, D.C.'s non-voting representative.

Of the group, Norton, Wexton and Trone have said they will forego their salaries during the shutdown.

Connolly said he would not because "we're not in the business of adding to the ranks of the unpaid. We're in the business of getting everyone paid fairly."

On Tuesday night Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, R, tweeted, "I am disgusted by the lack of concern for hardworking employees who will go unpaid this week. No one in Congress or the White House should receive a paycheck until the shutdown ends. Marylanders and Americans should not have to suffer because of this nonsense. #DoYourJobs"

The U.S. Capitol is seen through American flags flying at half staff in Washington, D.C. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Al Drago