Washington senators are seeking to protect local job openings after President Donald Trump issued a hiring freeze on all federal workers on Monday.
Trump’s presidential memorandum banned the hiring of federal civilian employees as one of his first acts in office. He ordered that no vacant positions existing after January 22 could be filled and no new positions could be created with the exception of military personnel. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell sent letters to Trump’s administration on Thursday, asking to reconsider the hiring freeze on a couple of specific agencies that would impact the state of Washington.
Murray and Cantwell were among several members of congress who asked Trump to remove the entire U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from the list. According to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the VA has reported it currently has more than 45,000 vacancies nationwide, including 300 in the state of Washington.
“I strongly urge President Trump not to break the promise he made to put veterans first while he was on the campaign trail,” Murray said in a statement. “At a time when we are working to help veterans get the care they earned in their service to our country, this action would only impede the department’s ability to follow through, including at facilities in our state.”
In the letter Congress members asked Trump to classify the VA’s delivery of health care as a national security and public safety responsibility, which would make the VA exempt from the hiring freeze.
“One issue that must not be overlooked is the VA’s little-known mission of providing support to national efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and man-made catastrophes,” the congress members wrote in the letter.
Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat from Bellevue, also signed the letter and said Trump’s decision to close the door on new jobs at the VA was “incredibly shortsighted.”
“The VA Puget Sound Healthcare System in Seattle is not spared from this, and is still without a permanent director for the foreseeable future,” Smith said. “This rash move is an embarrassment.”
Murray and Cantwell were also joined by five other senators who asked Defense Secretary James Mattis in another letter on Thursday to make an exception on the hiring freeze for Department of Navy shipyard civilian workers at shipyards around the nation like the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. While Trump’s hiring freeze does not apply to military personnel, civilian jobs at bases like the PSNS are not exempt.
“The civilian men and women who support the Navy provide mission critical maintenance to ensure the Navy can meet security requirements around the world, and should thus be granted an exception,” the senators wrote in the letter.
At a press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said there has been “a lack of respect for taxpayer dollars in this town for a long time and I think what the president is showing through the hiring freeze . . . is that we’ve got to respect the American taxpayer.”
“To see money get wasted in Washington (D.C.) on a job that is duplicative is insulting to the hard work that they do to pay their taxes,” Spicer said.