Kevin Hassett, the White House’s chief economic adviser, suggested in an interview on Thursday that the nearly 800,000 federal workers who aren’t getting paid during the ongoing partial government shutdown are “better off” because they’re on an extended vacation.
“A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year’s,” Hassett said during a “PBS Newshour” interview. “And then we have a shutdown, and so they can’t go to work, and so then they have the vacation, but they don’t have to use their vacation days. And then they come back, and then they get their back pay.”
He continued: “Then they’re, in some sense, they’re better off.”
Hassett later went on to speculate that the shutdown will have no major, long-term consequences even though he said the shutdown has cost the economy around $20 billion through Friday.
The partial shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, is now the longest in U.S. history. President Donald Trump has refused to reopen the government unless Congress gives him around $5.7 billion for a wall along the southern border, a sticking point Democrats have refused to budge on.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers missed their first paycheck of the year on Friday, many of whom have still been required to go to work during the shutdown. Congress approved a bill last week to grant back pay to those workers and others who were furloughed, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has signaled that Trump will sign it when it reaches his desk.
Pressure has been building on both sides of the aisle to end the shutdown amid worries from Republicans that the standoff is hurting the party’s reputation. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an ardent supporter of the president, urged Trump on Sunday to temporarily reopen the government while negotiations continued and attempted to talk him off plans to declare a national emergency. Trump has been mulling that option as a means to bypass Congress and build his wall unilaterally, although such an effort would prompt a near-immediate legal battle.
He has reportedly pulled back from that option in recent days.
“I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug,” Graham said during a “Fox News Sunday” interview. “See if we can get a deal. If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off. See if he can do it by himself through the emergency powers.”