WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. William Enyart, a retired general from southern Illinois, said Thursday from the House floor that his wife had gotten a call from one of her best friends, a woman he said was angry, disappointed and frightened.
He said her husband, a civilian employee at Scott Air Force Base, had just received half his usual paycheck, her son was a community college student who had just been laid off and her daughter was disabled.
"They are my voters," Enyart said. "They are my friends."
Then the first-term congressman from Belleville gave out Republican House Speaker John Boehner's office phone number and said he was urging constituents to call the speaker and tell him "to put America and its government back to work.'"
Boehner was joined by another Illinoisan, Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, in a meeting Thursday with President Barack Obama to discuss efforts to extend the country's borrowing authority and end the partial government shutdown.
Before the meeting, Roskam issued a statement saying their talks would take place "after 10 days of stalemate that follows over two years of the president not substantively engaging a divided Congress." But Boehner's office issued a statement afterward that "we are pleased there was an opportunity to sit down and begin a constructive dialogue tonight."
The president met earlier with leading Democrats, including Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. Durbin opened the day calling the failure to raise the debt ceiling "irresponsible and reckless."
Democratic Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville, a physicist, said in an interview that Argonne National Laboratory and his old employer, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, were drawing up contingency plans for furloughs in the next two weeks if the shutdown persisted.
"This is causing real fear and real pain for people in my district," he said.
Foster has introduced a bill to temporarily shutter the members-only House gym. He reported receiving hundreds of calls about the shutdown, many from veterans. Enyart, too, said his phone has been ringing off the hook, with most people wanting the government to reopen and few seeking to stop Obamacare, as many Republicans are demanding.
Guy Tridgell, a spokesman for Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski of Western Springs, said calls to his office had been "steady, but certainly not overwhelming" amid a "jump in social media activity." Zach Hunter, a spokesman for Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon, said his office was "receiving a normal level of constituent correspondence."
Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates is worried about Small Business Administration loans in her district, said spokesman Anton Becker. He said the loans averaged a total of $392,000 a day last year, meaning millions could be on hold or lost.