GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

TSA agents stay on job at regional airport without pay during Washington deadlock

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It depends on the number of flights, but there are between five and seven TSA personnel on-hand at East Texas Regional Airport, and they’re not shirking their duties during the ongoing government shutdown.

It’s been 21 days (and counting) since the partial shutdown went into effect, impacting about 800,000 federal employees nationwide while their elected leaders butt heads in D.C. On Friday, those workers received their first empty paychecks of the deadlock.

Fortunately, Jan. 10 also brought good news – for the future, at least. Senators approved a backpay measure by unanimous consent Thursday followed by a 411-to-7 vote in the House of Representatives Friday. It means the workers will be paid, eventually, for the time they’ve been furloughed.

In the meantime, though, many like Gregg County’s Transportation Security Administration personnel are dutifully putting in the hours despite the dearth of compensation.

“They’re working without pay, every day,” according to airport director Roy Miller.

A county employee along with others at the facility, Miller isn’t directly affected by the shutdown. He laments the burden on his colleagues, praising them for their dedication in the midst of hardship.

“They live in the general area. They’re local folks,” he said this week. On-duty as always, they’re helping keep the airport in full operation. “Our situation’s business as usual. They’re here at work every day.

“I’m sure their organization’s going to take care of their payroll when the time comes,” and local passengers shouldn’t notice any change, thanks to the agents’ efforts: “We’ve not noticed any reduction in service.”

It’s a terrible situation, says Congressman Louie Gohmert, waiting on his political opponents to give in to reach an end.

The U.S. Representative for Texas’ 1st Congressional District notes the bulk of government operations are funded during the shutdown, but TSA is one of the agencies feeling the crunch.

“They’re going to need help. Hopefully that will be quickly,” he said, laying the blame at the feet of Democratic leadership. “It is sad there are people like our East Texas TSA agents – there are seven there at the East Texas airport – who are not going to get paid until we get this resolved.

“We know they’re going to get paid, but it’s still tough when they’re not being paid. It appears clear, there’s only one reason Democrat leaders do not want to support border security … It’s obvious they’re holding things up because they despise President Trump.”

The longtime Republican says he’s in a mode of ‘speak loudly and often’ to point the finger at the opposition in nation’s capital and their resistance to President Donald Trump’s plans for bolstering border security – namely, a wall.

“We need border security. The president promised it and he got elected. That is the biggest promise he made, the most ardent promise,” Gohmert said. Newly-installed for his eighth term in office, the Tyler politician says immigration reform is an old priority for him. “I didn’t care who was in the White House when it comes to securing our border. It’s something that needs to be done. It’s something we have to deal with, and we need to deal with it now.”

Gohmert won’t speculate on the endgame for the impasse. Put a deadline on it, he says, and nothing will be resolved.

That Trump initially said he’d take the blame for the shutdown is a non-starter for the East Texas lawmaker.

“I know that he said that he would take it on himself. I never made that commitment, and I’m free to put the blame where it belongs … It should be easily ended if people on the Democrat side will simply agree to what they have in the past.”

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