It was Thursday around lunchtime, and Lindsey Graham was over it.
“Right now I am going to the gym,” the South Carolina senator told reporters in the Capitol. “I have never been more depressed about moving forward.”
There was reason to be depressed. Thursday was day 20 of the partial government shutdown, and despite the flurry of speeches, meetings, and press releases that had marked these weeks, no end to the furlough was in sight. By Friday, the shutdown would be tied for the longest in U.S. history.
It’s unlikely, however, the gym offered the relief Graham was hoping for. Because while you can run as hard as possible on the treadmill—maxing out your pace, punching up the incline—you still won’t move forward.
That’s been the theme of this shutdown, a frenzied running in place that has left a growing number of federal workers unpaid, White House and congressional aides exhausted, and both political parties more deeply entrenched in their demands than ever.
On paper, this week seemed to foretell progress: multiple visits by the vice president to Capitol Hill, bipartisan gatherings at the White House, the president’s first address from the Oval Office, a visit via Air Force One to the border. Political leaders were keeping busy, or at least attempting to appear so. And yet by week’s end, almost nothing had changed, with Republicans and Democrats recycling their same arguments and proposals from nearly three weeks before, and with the president’s threat of a national emergency still looming over the negotiations.