Virginia senators blast shutdown, sound off over airline industry impacts

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ARLINGTON, Va. (GRAY DC) -- The government shutdown is beginning to squeeze our nation’s airports. That’s according to Virginia’s two Democratic Senators. Thursday they rallied with government employees at Reagan National Airport. Our Washington Bureau’s Alana Austin tells us about the impact they say it’s having on safety.

More than a month into this government shutdown, Virginia’s senators say this situation is punishing federal workers. Now they’re concerned the pressure is too great on air traffic control, TSA and other employees facing tremendous stress.

“This is not a political game! Open the government today,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

With more TSA workers calling out of work and going without pay, some worry national safety is at risk. Mike Christine, air traffic controller, says the strain creates too many distractions at an already nerve-racking job.

“The focus – it’s now turned… it’s starting to worry people,” said Christine.

Virginia Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine stood alongside these workers at Reagan National Airport just outside DC.
Officials here say it’s getting so bad that some employees are sleeping in their cars between shifts because they can’t pay for gas.

“The pain that is being inflicted on millions of Americans is again disgraceful,” said Warner.

One frequent flier – John Bakovich – tells us he trusts the security of the system, but does worry this will eventually impact his ability to get to work.

“I’m just kind of worried about getting to where I have to be on time,” said Bakovich.

The Federal Aviation Administration tells us quote “the traveling public can be assured that our nation’s airspace system is safe”. A spokeswoman adds there’s been no measurable increase in unexpected retirements or resignations of air traffic controllers.

Even when the government fully reopens, Warner says it could still be several weeks before airports get back up to full speed.

As Democrats like Warner and Kaine blame the President for the shutdown, Republican National Committee spokesman Garren Shipley points the finger at the other side of the aisle. In a statement he asks why they won’t back plans put forward by the President and Leader McConnell to reopen the government and fund more border security.

His full statement reads: “After today’s press conference, one would expect that Mark Warner and Tim Kaine would both vote for Leader McConnell’s bill. Not only does it open the government immediately, it provides more money for humanitarian assistance, immigration judges, and more. But they won’t, because they simply can’t abide the fact that President Trump could start putting up steel barriers at the border in high priority areas. Resisting President Trump continues to be more important to Mark Warner and Tim Kaine than Federal workers.”

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