Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer sent a somberly worded email to his staff late Wednesday informing them that if the government shuts down Friday, reluctantly he would have to send most of them home without pay.
“The preparations underway to send valued hard working SAA employees home while then preparing to deliver services which clearly do not exceed our own expectations is an anathema to me,” Gainer wrote. “Classifying some as essential, others as not essential is frankly insulting, and, as many of your organizational leaders have told me, demoralizing. I deeply regret the professional and personal impact this has on you and your families.”
In an interview Wednesday, Gainer said he would reduce his staff from more than 900 to 240 during a shutdown. He also said he has spoken with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, and furloughed employees should not plan on receiving back pay.
“Compensating people who must come, are essential, is fair and legal,” Gainer said in the interview. “Compensation for people who are furloughed, laid off, nonessential, I think, is slim to none. It doesn’t make much sense to pay people who don’t work.”
But Gainer’s email tried to empathize with staff who would “find themselves in financial hardships.” Gainer told them that despite possibly being termed nonessential, “your public service is valued.”
“I accept and understand your disappointment in me. It is not supposed to come to this. Essentially, ‘Laying people off,’ even temporarily, is distasteful,” Gainer wrote. “You deserve better treatment. You have earned better treatment. All that said, I am confident in your resilience, your dedication and caring for each other. Continue to stick together and reach out to anybody in need, I will keep you posted.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.