WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Passport problems have lawmakers increasingly frustrated as their offices are inundated with travelers pleading for help.
The State Department says they’re surging resources to deal with the backlog, but so far they haven’t made much progress.
Right now, the State Department says the wait time for a passport is 10-13 weeks, or seven to nine weeks to have it expedited for a fee.
Senator Eric Schmitt is among the lawmakers who have slammed the State Department for the backlog.
“That’s unacceptable,” Schmitt said.
Senator Rick Scott echoed the criticism, adding that the agency didn’t prepare enough for this post pandemic rush.
“If you have more demand, you hire more people. Shocking. How hard is that?” Scott said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they are surging resources, including hiring extra workers and approving extra hours.
“People working overtime, double-time, triple time to get blue books into people’s hands. The demand for passports is greater than it’s ever been,” Blinken said.
Democrats said delays will only get worse if Republicans follow through on plans to slash the budgets of federal agencies like the State Department.
Congressman Jake Auchincloss said they should invest in federal agencies instead.
“Congress must reject these cuts and instead support these agencies with increased staffing and reliable funding,” Auchincloss said. “They don’t have the resources and bandwidth that they need.”
Senator Schmitt argues the State Department is wasting funding it already has.
“It’s sort of a misallocation of resources. The first job of government is to serve its constituents, its not doing it very well,” Schmitt said.
Senator Scott pointed out that travelers already pay to have their passports processed, and extra to get them expedited.
“Always the answer up here is gosh, we gotta spend more money. I mean, think about how much money we’re already spending,” Scott said.
The State Department said it hopes to get processing times down by the end of the year, but for now they want travelers to keep planning ahead.
“We’re throwing everything we can at this trying to make sure that people have those blue books,” Blinken said.