Frustration boiled over at a town hall meeting held over a looming government shutdown as federal employees, contractors and residents vented anger at Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).
The legislator, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, organized the emergency forum at Alexandrias Francis Hammond Middle School to field questions from government employees worried about how the shutdown would play out for them.
The public spent more time making known their disgust with the crisis.
At times the conversation flared up as public speakers let loose their ire with a deadlocked Congress and Moran in particular. Catcalls, heckles and applause rang out as attendees took turns voicing concerns and making rhetoric-filled attacks.
Before the roughly two-hour meeting ended, Moran shouted down at least one speaker who accused him of shirking his duty.
Why are you here tonight and not in Congress trying to figure out how to stop this? a speaker asked before being led away from the microphone.
Later, Moran took a more conciliatory tone with the visibly disgruntled audience of around 200 people.
I’m frustrated too, he said. I’m not upset with people who want to vent their anger. I get frustrated at people who want to vent at folks who are actually trying to serve as the messenger and being blamed for the message, but that’s human nature too.
Moran laid blame for the deadlock equally on newly elected Republicans in the House and the prior sessions Senate, which failed to pass a House approved budget.
Republicans have taken everything but domestic discretionary spending off the table during budget negotiations, Moran said, leaving lawmakers stuck choosing between deep cuts into existing programs.
Eliminating National Public Radio saves virtually no money, he said. It’s about policy positions, ideologies, if you will.
He warned the shutdown could last as long as three weeks as federal lawmakers prepare to embark on their Easter vacation. Military personnel might see a disruption in their pay during that time, but they will be reimbursed, he said. Other federal employees may not be so lucky.
Though resident Laura Mraz, an unemployed former federal contractor, agreed the Tea Partys growing influence in the Republican House had escalated the problem, she said Morans town hall had raised more questions than answers.
I needed to find out what was going to happen, she said. When [Moran] talked about the three weeks Congress is going to be on vacation, I thought the audacity.
Mraz, without work for five months now, worries offers for new federal jobs will vanish if Washington closes up shop. Shes certain the government will shut down when the clock strikes midnight tonight and lays that at the feet of Tea Party activists.
But the budget crisis itself wasnt the responsibility of any one party, she said.
Were all at fault, Mraz said.