With a Rockville construction company as a backdrop, President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Thursday to vote to end the federal government shutdown that began Tuesday after the Republican-majority House of Representatives and Democrat-majority U.S. Senate failed to agree on any spending bills for fiscal 2014.
“Unfortunately if this continues, businesses like this are going to feel and experience the negative impact,” Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro said after the rally.
The rally took place at M. Luis Construction Co., which started 25 years ago by a family from Portugal that didn’t speak English, said Filipe Dominigues, a cousin of the owners. Sisters Cidalia Luis-Akbar and Natalia Luis bought the company from their father. Obama offered Luis Construction as an example of a small business that will feel the effect of the government shutdown and one that has benefitted from government assistance such as Small Business Association loans.
The Gazette was not allowed inside the event because press was limited.
Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring expressed frustration with Congress and the risk the shutdown poses to the economy.
“I think locally we are really going to have to start to assess the impact,” she said.
Groups of residents gathered outside hoping to catch a glimpse of the president, while police roped off the area and redirected traffic briefly.
Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington said Obama’s “basic message was, let’s vote today,” to open the government.
He said the House would pass a basic bill today reopening the government, but that House Speaker John Boehner was not allowing a vote in the House.
“He’s been listening to this very reckless faction within the House Republication party,” he said.
“You don’t reduce your debt by not paying your bills,” Obama said in his speech, “it just makes you unreliable.”
Councilman Craig Rice (D-Dist. 3) of Germantown said he was glad to see Obama put a face to the effects of the shutdown. Rather than a government shutdown, “we need to talk about this in terms of a people shutdown,” he said.
When a project stops because of the shutdown, construction workers may not get paid next week, Rice said.
“We have folks like that all throughout the county, who are being negatively impacted by the government shutdown,” he said.
Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Takoma Park was among those who shook hands with Obama after the speech.
Riemer served as the President’s National and Youth Director during the 2008 presidential campaign and Riemer’s wife, Angela, worked on the president’s 2006 U.S. Senate campaign.
Riemer and the President caught up on how Riemer’s family is doing — Reimer’s son was born during the 2008 campaign. Obama told Riemer to bring his family to the White House for a visit, the councilman said.
Several local businesses said they had been notified of Obama’s visit on Monday. Enterprise rental car branch manager Lindsey Chester said that they were continuing with their usual business, but that parking was somewhat of a challenge.