As members of Congress scrambled to gather enough votes to avert a government shutdown Thursday night, Capitol Hill agencies were keeping on eye on developments, but were not particularly worried about history repeating itself.
During the partial government shutdown in 2013, the Capitol ground to a halt. With the clock ticking down Thursday, agencies were watching the House. "The Library is closely monitoring the situation," read a notice sent from Library of Congress operations to library staff around 3:30 on Thursday afternoon. The LOC told employees it expected the House and Senate to pass a two-day continuing resolution to keep the government open and that Congress would pass "a longer-term budget ... at some point over the next several days."
"In the highly unlikely event of a temporary government shutdown," read the notice, "staff scheduled to work on site tomorrow, December 12, should report as normal for further instructions."
Other agencies also have a contingency plan -- just in case.
"GPO has a plan in place should the government shutdown," Government Printing Office spokesman Gary Somerset wrote in an email. "GPO will have the necessary essential employees working to meet the printing and publishing needs of Congress and any funded Federal agencies."
Capitol Hill employees, from maintenance workers to cafeteria workers to police officers, were generally not worried about a shutdown, but one worker raised concerns about not having a paycheck, considering the holidays are right around the corner.
“I think we’re all hopeful and expectant that something will pass,” said a staffer with knowledge of campus operations. The staffer recalled the partial government shutdown in October of last year, when preparations were made days in advance as a shutdown appeared imminent.
Last year, the Committee on House Administration posted a guidance for shutdown procedures days before the government officially shut down, outlining which agencies would remain opened or closed. The Committee on House Administration did not return requests for comment Thursday.
“There’s not a panic mode," said Saul Schniderman, president of Library of Congress Professional Guild, a staff union, in a phone interview. "The mood here was ‘just in case.’"
Schniderman said he was contacted by labor relations at the Library Thursday afternoon, to review their agreement for staff who would report to work in the event of a shutdown.
But whether or Congress funds the government, Capitol Police would report for duty.
"The USCP is closely monitoring the situation," Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokesperson for the U.S. Capitol Police, said in an email. "We maintain constant 24/7 coverage at all times, so in the event of a lapse in appropriations, we would report to work as normal and receive further instruction & updates."
Though for many Capitol employees the process of a shutdown would be similar to last year, there is the added factor that offices are currently in transition as members move into and out of their suites. Questions remain as to how much of the transition could continue, and which transition staff members would be considered essential, should the government shut down.
Also unlike the partial government shutdown in 2013 , the District of Columbia would not have to worry about its own funds being caught in the debate over the "cromnibus." As part of the fiscal 2014 appropriations bill, D.C. will be able to spend its own local funds in the event of a federal government shutdown.
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