As negotiations stall over the continuing resolution that would fund government for the rest of the fiscal year, the House of Representatives and their staff are preparing procedures in case a shutdown temporarily halts operations.
Today, Rep. Dan Lungren, Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, wrote to all House offices asking them to submit a list of staff they deemed were non-essential and thus to be furloughed in the event of a shutdown. This list is due by 5pm today.
Each office is responsible for determining which staff members are essential and non-essential. The Committee on House Administration has released a set of operating guidelines, suggesting that essential staff are those who are deemed critical to the performance of Congress’ constitutional duties (which includes legislative duties), the safe-guarding of human life and the protection of property.
Regarding the possibility of a shutdown, reaction from staff has been mixed. Walking through the security checkpoints at one House office building yesterday, FrumForum observed a security guard tell a colleague who had not been following the news that there might be impending furloughs.
“What?!” exclaimed the other security guard. “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make my rent. That’s no good!” (Note: the security guards are mistaken – Capitol Police are considered necessary for the safe-guarding of human life and “will continue to provide protection for the Capitol Complex and Members.”)
On the other hand, some House staffers are welcoming the prospect of a couple days off, even if it is without pay. After all: springtime weather is soon among us. “Most Hill staffers aren’t too worried because we just got paid [at the beginning of the month] and won’t get paid again until the end of the month,” one legislative staffer for a freshman congressman told FrumForum.
Government staff may even have reason to cheer on a government shutdown. As the operating guidelines sent out by the Committee on House Administration note, the resumption of government operation has historically come with retroactive payment for furloughed employees. While this is not guaranteed, this means government employees have reason to hope that a shutdown will actually just mean a few days of paid vacation.