Five million pieces of IRS mail went unopened during the shutdown, watchdog says

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:
FILE- In this April 13, 2014 file photo, the Internal Revenue Service Headquarters (IRS) building is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)
FILE- In this April 13, 2014 file photo, the Internal Revenue Service Headquarters (IRS) building is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

Parts of the government that were shut for 35 days are now open again – at least for the next three weeks. According to Standard & Poor’s, the shutdown has cost the U.S. economy $6 billion – more than the $5.7 billion President Trump requested for the border wall that’s at the heart of this dispute.

The federal watchdog National Taxpayer Advocate determined it could take the IRS at least a year to get back to normal after five million pieces of mail went unopened during the shutdown, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes. In the first week of tax season, the IRS is struggling to get Americans their refunds on time.

“It’s going to be massive catch up at this point,” Michelle Harris of the IRS said. She is one of thousands of IRS workers who were furloughed for 35 days. She put off emergency dental work and car repairs in the last month and still hasn’t gotten her back pay.

Harris said some of her colleagues quit.

“I know that it was more than people could handle and they put in their notice,” Harris said. “I don’t blame ’em.”

In a weekend interview, President Trump said the chances of congressional negotiators reaching a budget deal are “less than 50-50.” He also said he wouldn’t rule out another shutdown if Congress doesn’t give him the $5.7 billion he wants for a border wall.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers is scrambling to strike a deal against the odds. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney warned there will be consequences if the two sides don’t cut a border deal fast.

“He’s willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border,” Mulvaney told “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan.

“Is the President really prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks?” Brennan asked.

“Yeah. I think he actually is,” Mulvaney said.

Seventeen congressional leaders – eight Republicans and nine Democrats – have less than three weeks to fulfill a vague mission: beef up border security funding by an unspecified amount.

The president said Friday that if Congress doesn’t approve the wall, he’ll declare a national emergency or allow another partial shutdown, even though many in his party still feel burned by the last one.

“Shutdowns are never good policy, ever,” Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins told “Face the Nation.”

The White House said federal workers will start to get their back pay early this week and that all overdue checks should go out by Friday. As for President Trump’s State of the Union address, CBS News learned Feb. 5 is being discussed as a possibility, but the date still remains uncertain.

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