President Donald Trump likes to downplay the significance of a government shutdown. He once argued that the government doesn’t shut down during a shutdown. “All essential services continue,” the then-reality TV star tweeted in 2013. “Don’t believe lies.”
More recently, Trump argued that “the damage done to our Country from a badly broken Border” is “far greater” than the damage done by government closures.
But now that Trump is responsible for his own record-breaking shutdown, he’s having a hard time maintaining the mirage that it’s business as usual for the federal workforce.
With nine agencies still partially closed due to Trump’s demand for border wall funding, officials are having to call thousands of furloughed employees back to work in order to carry out basic services for the public. The personnel maneuvers are a tacit admission from the White House that these federal workers are actually, well, kind of essential.
State Department officials said Thursday that they will be calling back some 8,000 furloughed diplomats next week, a move made possible by some accounting tricks. The Washington Post reported that State officials said they need a “full team″ in order to advance U.S. interests around the world.
The Internal Revenue Service is bringing back roughly 46,000 employees who’d been furloughed, because it turns out Americans like to receive their tax refunds.
The Food and Drug Administration called back several hundred employees to carry out inspections of “high risk” foods in order to reduce the risk that people get sick and die from what they eat.
And the Transportation Department revised its shutdown plan so that an additional 3,600 workers with the Federal Aviation Administration ― including safety inspectors ― could return to work and help make sure planes don’t crash.
These are all efforts by the administration to minimize the inconveniences and dangers created by largely shuttered federal agencies.
It turns out Americans like to receive their tax refunds.
Trump insisted in December he would be “proud” to shut down the government over border security, demanding that Congress provide $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats have refused to give him the money.
When the shutdown began on Dec. 22, about 380,000 federal workers were furloughed and another 420,000 were working without pay as “excepted” personnel. But the latter number has grown and the former has shrunk as the administration calls back more workers to deal with the shutdown’s fallout.
Even so, Trump seems to hold to the line that the impacts have been minimal. Amid the furlough callbacks, he tweeted out a column in The Daily Caller, attributed to a senior Trump official, arguing that most federal workers are lazy and worthless. “We do not want most employees to return, because we are working better without them,” the author wrote.