Congress is “not thinking about us, about all the people that work for them,” one tour guide said. A shutdown is “going to hurt a lot of people, and hopefully, if it does happen, it won’t last too long.”
Megan Burger, interim president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 658, said she is meeting today with managers from the Architect of the Capitol’s office, which employs the CVC tour guides and visitor assistants whom her union represents.
Burger said they “hope to be working during the busiest time of the year.”
Despite the guidelines, questions linger. For instance, without tour guides, who will direct the hundreds of tourists that clog the Capitol halls each day?
House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren said that’s one of many queries that his staff is answering this week, especially because he wants to keep the Capitol open to the public.
He said he is giving a presentation to the Republican Conference today to clear up questions that his office is fielding, including what would happen with district lease agreements and whether certain facilities, such as the House gym, would stay open.
But by merely releasing the guidelines, Lungren has opened himself up to partisan sniping.
“It’s unfortunate that this is what’s being proposed by the other side,” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said. “I think it is an indication they want to shut down the government.”
Lungren said choosing when to release the guidelines was a balancing act.
“You don’t want to put it out too soon because then people think you’re trying to leverage some negotiations, which is not my purpose,” he said. “I don’t want to put it out too late so that I add to the uncertainty.”
The Senate has yet to release similar guidelines directing its Members in the event of a shutdown. But Sen. John Hoeven, ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, said it might have to soon.
“If it comes to that, we’ll go through it and make sure we have something in place,” the North Dakota Republican said. “We’ll make sure essential services are taken care of.”
At least one thing is certain: Security is essential, so the Capitol Police will be on duty.
Chief Phillip Morse said the department has prepared a contingency plan.
“The Capitol will be safe,” Morse said. “Capitol Police is prepared for many different situations, and this is one of them.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.