The partial government shutdown has entered its 20th day. On Saturday, it will become the longest shutdown in U.S. history if a deal is not reached. President Trump reportedly stormed out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer Wednesday after they refused to back a deal to fund a wall on the southern border. Schumer accused Trump of throwing a temper tantrum. Trump described the meeting as a "total waste of time."
We speak with Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. The group just released a report titled "As Shutdown Drags On, Agencies Devoted to Consumer and Worker Health and Safety Unfunded and Deprioritized."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: The partial government shutdown has entered its 20th day. On Saturday, it will become the longest shutdown in U.S. history, if a deal is not reached. On Wednesday, President Trump reportedly stormed out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after they refused to back a deal to fund a wall on the southern border. Schumer accused Trump of throwing a temper tantrum. Trump described the meeting as a "total waste of time."
This comes as the impact of the shutdown is growing across the country. The shutdown has left 380,000 workers furloughed and another 420,000 forced to work without pay. The Food and Drug Administration has announced it has suspended all routine food inspections. At the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 13,000 employees have been furloughed, forcing the agency to halt work on air quality monitoring, enforcement of toxic polluters and clean-ups at Superfund sites. States are scrambling to administer SNAP food stamp benefits for 3.4 million Americans, after more than $4 billion in federal payments failed to materialize. Housing advocates fear the shutdown could lead to the evictions of thousands of low-income renters who live in government-subsidized apartments. Over 1,100 contracts between the government and private landlords have already expired.
At the TSA, there are reports of a wave of resignations by airport screeners because they're not being paid. The American Federation of Government Employees sued the government last week over the situation. Hydrick Thomas, president of the union's TSA Council, said the shutdown is causing a, quote, "massive security risk for American travelers" as the TSA is unable to hire or train new workers during the shutdown.
We're joined right now by Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen. The group just released a report titled "As Shutdown Drags On, Agencies Devoted to Consumer and Worker Health and Safety Unfunded and Deprioritized."
Robert Weissman, welcome to Democracy Now!
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Good to be with you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you start off by talking about what will happen to these workers? We're talking about 800,000 workers. For people to understand, those that have been furloughed, who have not been working for the last weeks, will never get paid. And those that are working, like TSA agents, if they have not quit, supposedly will be paid when the government shutdown ends. But talk about the significance of this. Yesterday the president said they're all happy.
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Right. Well, of course, the president is delusional. For the 800,000 workers, you know, that's most people in America, including most of these workers, live paycheck to paycheck, so they're missing paychecks, and they're just going to have to scramble, and they're being put in impossible situations.
Historically, when these shutdowns have occurred, when it's settled, the workers are paid, both the ones who are forced to work, who are legally required to be at their jobs even though they are not being paid, and the ones who have been furloughed and are not working.
There's another category of people who are comparably being affected, who will not be paid ever, which is the huge number of government contractors. You know, as you've discussed in recent shows, the government contracts out, because it's privatized so much of its business, to a huge number of agencies and workers. Those people aren't working now, and they will not be reimbursed.
So, people are scrambling. And it's huge here in the Washington, D.C., area, but the federal government is spread across the country. It is happening in every state and every community across the country.