Josh Hawley to furloughed federal workers: No comment

Josh Hawley, Republican U.S. senator from Missouri
Josh Hawley, Republican U.S. senator from Missouri NYT

Josh Hawley has a message to federal workers in Kansas City who won’t receive paychecks this week: No comment.

Missouri’s freshman Republican senator was asked if he had anything to say about the shutdown, which has affected nine Cabinet agencies and several smaller departments.

“No comment. I’m not going to play hallway roulette with you,” Hawley told The Star Wednesday as he walked the halls of the Capitol. “I don’t do that.” It was the second time in a week that he has rebuffed questions about the subject.

The federal government is one of the largest employers in Kansas City, which is home to offices for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Treasury. Both are shut down, which will mean no paychecks at the moment for affected workers.

The Kansas City region has roughly 38,000 federal workers including the employees at Fort Leavenworth and Environmental Protection Agency in Johnson County, Kansas, according to Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s office.

“I don’t think that the president has much appreciation or understanding of what it means to live paycheck to paycheck,” Cleaver said, noting the calls he’s received from federal workers in his district worried about their bills.

Hawley’s hallway reticence is not limited to questions about the shutdown.

Dozens of reporters gather daily in the halls of Congress, and routinely engage senators as they pass by. Hawley has avoided questions from reporters for CNN, The Washington Post and other outlets about a host of topics, including the possibility that President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency at the border.

He said he wants all questions to go through his office and won’t answer them on his feet in the corridors of the Capitol. His answer to any hallway query will be “No comment.”

That’s a marked contrast with Hawley’s Democratic predecessor, Claire McCaskill, one of the most talkative and accessible senators on Capitol Hill during her 12 years in office.

Hawley’s fellow Missouri Republican, Sen. Roy Blunt, noted that the federal government is also a major employer in St. Louis and was willing to share his frustration about the standoff.

“Shutdown politics are bad government and I think generally worse politics,” Blunt said.

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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