Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and close ally of the White House, went on Fox News Sunday and described the impact of the government shutdown on federal workers as “inconvenient.”
On Dec. 23, funding about about a quarter of federal government operations ran out because President Donald Trump refused to sign legislation keeping the government open. He would have signed it, he said, if it included billions of dollars to build a wall on the southern border.
For more than three weeks now, the government has been partially closed. On Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal workers got paychecks for $0.00. On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace pressed Graham about the predicament.
“How much damage does that do if this government shutdown goes on for weeks even into next month?” he asked, noting that Trump aides have discussed using the president’s State of the Union address to try to re-open the government—a speech that is more than two weeks away.
“Less damage than if we don’t fix a broken immigration system,” Graham replied. “You got two bad choices here: Continue the stalemate and see parts of the government shut down. It will be inconvenient and it can create problems. And to the federal workforce, I’m sorry you’re caught up in this mess, but the real damage is people coming across the border, selling drugs, killing Americans. That needs to come to the end. So the real damage is a broken border, compared to a partial shutdown.”
Upwards of 800,000 federal workers are not getting paid because of the shutdown. Many are furloughed, and others––including TSA workers––are working without pay. Countless stories have detailed how these workers struggle to pay medical bills, make mortgage payments, and afford food and gas.
In addition to the immediate hardship hundreds of thousands of Americans face, the shutdown has other immediate consequences. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said his agency has made significant changes because of funding shortfalls.
“It’s not business as usual, and we are not doing all the things we would do under normal circumstances,” he said, according to NBC. “There are important things we are not doing.”
The possibility of work stoppages by TSA employees has also caused widespread concerns. Though there hasn’t yet been a major reported change in air travel, the prospect looms—especially as more TSA workers than usual have been calling in sick.