Senators call for end to ‘pointless shutdown’ as travelers face uncertainty at the airport

Senators call for end to ‘pointless shutdown’ as travelers face uncertainty at the airport

By:  Larry Higgs
NJ Advance Media for

Transportation Security Administration employees, who are tasked with handling security at the nation’s airports, face missing their first payday this Friday due to the ongoing government shutdown.

As the shutdown continues into its third week, some screeners have reportedly called in sick in protest in recent days.

During a press conference at Newark Liberty Airport, U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, D-NJ and Congressmen Albio Sires and Donald Payne, Jr. , D-NJ, made an urgent plea to GOP leadership to put an end to shutdown.

Menenedez and Booker called on GOP leadership in the Senate to immediately post bi-partisan funding bills to re-open the government and “create an opportunity for a debate on Homeland Security.”

“Across the federal government these 800,000 workers and families are treated like pawns in Donald Trump’s pointless shutdown,” Menendez said. “The longer this shutdown goes on, the more damage it does to the economy and average American.”

“This shutdown makes our county less safe and less secure...this is not acceptable," Booker said. "There are air traffic controllers, the TSA workers who keep our airports safe, who face stress and strain on their families.”

The shutdown began Dec. 22 when President Donald Trump refused to sign legislation funding the rest of the government unless there it included more than $5 billion for southern border wall that he at one time promised Mexico would pay for. Officials announced Monday that Internal Revenue Service employees to process income tax forms would be recalled to work without pay so that taxpayers wouldn’t be delayed getting refunds, if they are entitled to one.

Trump said he would address the nation Tuesday in a prime time address on immigration. Menendez urged viewers to fact check statements made by Trump.

“This president hasn’t told the truth, there is a moral urgency to end this shutdown.” Booker said.

The affect the shutdown is having on travel delays due to screeners who’ve called out sick is hard to quantify. The Port Authority, which operates the airports, declined to comment about wait times, referring questions to the TSA.

While TSA wait time screens in Terminal B in Newark Airport said there was a 20-minute wait in standard security lanes and 5 minute wait at Pre Check express screening, some travelers reported having a worse experience.

“I missed my whole flight because of it,” said Ell Ash of Willingsboro, who was waiting with his two daughters for a flight to Houston Tuesday. “There were only three workers working, It (the line) was very long.”

Nationwide, the TSA screened approximately 2.22 million passengers on Sunday, which Gregory called “a historically busy day” due to holiday travel.

“We are grateful to the more than 51,000 officers across the country who remain focused on the mission and are respectful to the traveling public as they continue the important work necessary to secure the nation’s transportation systems, Gregory said in a statement.

“People are working right down there at that gate are working unsure of their future, “ Payne said. “They have other things on their minds, will I have enough money for child care, will I have enough food in the house, what happens next week? Mr Trump they should be getting paid.”

A call to Local 2222 of the American Federation of Government Employees union, which represents TSA workers at the local airports, was not immediately returned.

“When you create stress on the (security system, it creates the potential for error,” he said. “We have to get security right 100 percent of the time, a terrorist only has to get it right one percent of the time.”