An increased number of TSA agents have been calling in sick as the partial government shutdown continues. That’s a report coming from CNN, which claims that hundreds of agents have been absent from work this week, raising concerns about the current security of air travel. During this partial government shutdown, TSA agents have to go to work without pay.
The news comes after Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that President Donald Trump declared that the shutdown could continue for months or even years during a meeting between lawmakers. According to CNN, Trump confirmed the statement at a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House on Friday.
“Absolutely I said that,” Trump said. “I don’t think it will, but I’m prepared.”
This likely isn’t what the hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers want to hear.
“This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect,” said Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, of the mass absences from work among TSA screeners.
The Transport Security Administration has issued a statement in response to the report from CNN.
“Call outs began over the holiday period and have increased, but are causing minimal impact given that there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process,” the statement reads. “Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change.”
CNN reports that, at John F. Kennedy International Airport, approximately 170 TSA employees have called in sick every day this week, according to Thomas. This has meant that officers have had to work extra hours without pay to ensure that the screening process runs smoothly. Call outs have also reportedly grown by 200 percent to 300 percent at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
During the press conference in the Rose Garden, President Trump announced that the administration will be working through the weekend to bring the partial government shutdown to an end. Trump has formed a team of aides to lead the discussions, which includes his son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
The government shutdown started on December 22, after Congress failed to pass the spending bill that would dictate budget appropriations for several government agencies. The main point of contention has been funding a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States. This was one of Trump’s main campaign promises and he originally promised that Mexico would pay for it. Now he’s insisting that the billions needed for its construction should come from the nation’s budget.
“We won’t be opening until it’s solved,” Trump said of the border wall impasse. “It’s a problem of national security. It’s a problem of terrorists.”