A House Democrat from Vermont has apologized for a tweet claiming the government shutdown is the first time people in America have been legally forced to work without pay ― a statement that ignored slavery.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) tweeted his “sincere apologies” after a storm of rebukes for Tuesday’s initial tweet defending federal workers who have been without pay during the monthlong government shutdown.
“Never in the history of this country has it been legal to make people work for free but that’s what’s happening to federal employees,” Welch wrote.
People on social media quickly took note of Welch’s failure to acknowledge the nation’s history of slavery.
Nearly two hours later, the lawmaker tweeted out his mea culpa.
“Nothing worse in the history of our country than the brutal inhumanity of the horrible, relentless, and savage infliction of involuntary servitude-slavery- on millions of people whose freedom was denied,” Welch wrote. “Nothing.”
Welch, a seven-term House member, has been vocal in his opposition to the government shutdown, which has left some 800,000 federal employees preparing for what may be their second missed paycheck this week.
On Tuesday, Welch unveiled legislation to prevent the government from forcing its workers to go without pay. He also said he would join other House members proposing to reopen the government while the House appropriations committee debates President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding.
The proposal also would allow the Department of Homeland Security to make its case for wall funding in a public hearing, provided lawmakers could suggest changes, including those involving the status of individuals under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program and those who hold Temporary Protected Status.