CHICAGO and WASHINGTON — The partial government shutdown has gone on long enough that Senator Tammy Duckworth says she's concerned national security is at risk in the U.S.
"I'm very concerned about security," Sen. Duckworth said Monday during a visit to O'Hare Airport in Chicago. "Many TSA agents are calling off sick in order to work other jobs because they have to put food on the table, meet rent all of that."
Over the weekend, the federal agency tasked with guaranteeing U.S. airport security acknowledged an increase in the number of its employees missing work or calling in sick. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers face missed paychecks Friday as the shutdown drags through a third week.
But Trump and the Transportation Security Administration pushed back on any suggestion that the call-outs at the agency represented a "sickout" that was having a significant effect on U.S. air travel. TSA said it screened more than 2.2 million passengers Sunday, a historically busy day due to holiday travel. Ninety percent waited less than 15 minutes, the agency said.
"We are grateful to the more than 51,000 agents across the country who remain focused on the mission and are respectful to the traveling public," said TSA spokesman Michael Bilello.
Sen. Duckworth said the sick calls aren't affecting O'Hare as much as other parts of the country yet, but expects the problem could worsen, and lines at airports could grow longer as a result.
With no breakthrough in sight, President Donald Trump will argue his case to the nation Tuesday night that a "crisis" at the U.S.-Mexico border requires the long and invulnerable wall he's demanding before ending the partial government shutdown.
Duckworth says a Republican funding bill supported by Democrats would pass if brought to the Senate floor, but leader Mitch McConnell won't pass it because the president said he will veto it unless wall funding is included.
Trump's Oval Office speech — his first as president— will be followed by his visit Thursday to the southern border to highlight his demand for a barrier. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that he will use the visit to "meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis."