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Commerce Secretary Dismisses Federal Workers' Concerns About Missed Paychecks

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While some of the thousands of federal workers impacted by the ongoing government shutdown have resorted to going to food banks, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has expressed confusion at why the workers would be taking such measures.

Ross told CNBC he doesn't "really quite understand why" the workers would go to shelters for food, noting that they could just take out a loan.

"The 30 days of pay that people will be out - there's no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it and we've seen a number of ads from the financial institutions doing that," Ross said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

Ross argued that the loans would effectively be government-guaranteed, because President Donald Trump has signed legislation assuring the workers will receive back pay when the shutdown is over.

"So there really is not a good excuse why there should be a liquidity crisis," Ross said. "Now true, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest but the idea that it's paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea."

The comments from Ross, a billionaire private equity investor before joining the Trump administration, come as approximately 800,000 federal workers are on the verge of missing another paycheck this week due to the partial government shutdown.

Top Democrats have criticized Ross' comments as "tone deaf," with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggesting the Commerce Secretary has adopted a "them eat cake kind of attitude."

"Is this the let them eat cake kind of attitude? Or call your father for money? Or this is character building for you? It's all going to end up for you very well just as long as you get your paychecks?" Pelosi said to reporters.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argued Ross' "appalling" comments reveal the administration's "callous indifference towards the federal workers it is treating as pawns."

"Secretary Ross, they just can't call their stock broker and ask them to sell some of their shares," Schumer said, referring to the Commerce Secretary's experience as a wealthy investor.

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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