Reporting Linh Bui
FORT MEADE, Md. (WJZ)— U.S. Senator Ben Cardin visited Fort Meade to address the furloughs that went into effect last month.
Linh Bui reports the crowd he faced was fired up.
The town hall lasted about an hour and about 100 Department of Defense civilian employees showed up, ready to tell the senator what they think about the furloughs.
Many expressed anger and frustration.
“Congress has failed. They’re not a pro-gress. They’re a con-gress,” said Shelley Bazemore, intelligence analyst.
Most of the crowd were Fort Meade civilian employees who were furloughed for six days because of sequester budget cuts.
“There are lots of us who can’t afford our mortgages. And there are other payments. You got car payments, child payments, medical insurance, dental insurance. There are lots of things that people have had to crunch or pay late,” Bazemore said.
“So many of us feel like Congress should not be off and be here to hear the voice of the civilian workers,” said Vikki Torrence, Employment Readiness Program manager.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin listened and sympathized.
“I think we should be there working. I agree with you. I think we should be sitting around a table working this out,” Cardin said.
The town hall was held at Fort Meade, Maryland’s largest employer.
The furloughs began in July and affected about 650,000 civilian employees nationwide, 46,000 in Maryland.
Cardin says furloughs hurt families, the economy and national security. He says lawmakers need to work together.
“There’s a way of getting this resolved. Both sides have to come together. We need to enact a budget. It’s gotta be balanced. There’s certainly room here to get revenues from our tax code, tax expenditures, closing loopholes,” Cardin said
He promised stopping the sequester is his number one priority.
“I can’t tell you when but we’re going to get it over with because it’s no way to run a government,” Cardin said.
But many left the meeting unsatisfied.
“They have not fully represented the people who elected them to office,” Bazemore said.
Someone in the audience asked if furloughed workers could receive compensation, the senator said he’d look into it.
There are more than 27,000 Department of Defense civilian employees at Fort Meade, and the majority of them faced furloughs.