As Congress teetered on the brink of shutdown Monday evening, members scrambled to submit their lists of who would be deemed “essential” and “nonessential” in the wake of a shutdown.
By 5 p.m., each House office needed to figure out whose primary job responsibilities “directly related to constitutional responsibilities, the protection of human life, or the protection of property.”
All others would be furloughed.
House Administration Committee staff did not to comment on how many questions they had fielded from chiefs of staff wondering how to decide whom to keep around on Tuesday. According to documents published by the committee, the answer would be those staff who are an “integral part of the deliberative and communicative process by which members participate in committee and House proceedings.”
For instance, such a description would include the people who tally votes, draft bills and resolutions, provide parliamentary and legal advice and research and handle technological support.
Sample letters to be sent to essential House employees notified them to continue reporting on a regular schedule, with any scheduled paid time off canceled until further notice.
“We appreciate the difficulty and anxiety this situation creates,” the closing paragraph of the letter states. Retroactive pay is likely, but not guaranteed. House members and their staffs are paid on the final day of every month.
For those on the Senate payroll, Friday is payday and they should be able to account for every dime earned between Sept. 16 and Sept. 30. But the next payday, on Friday, Oct. 18, is less certain.
“We’re not sure how that’s going to work out,” an employee in the Senate Disbursing Office said Monday afternoon. Requests for comment from the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the Senate Financial Clerk’s office were not returned.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., deemed the big, blue van that rolls through the Arkansas countryside on behalf of the senator “nonessential.” His office announced that a planned tour would come to a halt Tuesday, and stops at four towns in the southwestern part of the state would be postponed.
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer provided employees with an outlook of how the chamber’s services would function during a shutdown late last week, including the Capitol Police. Security would remain at “full operational strength,” but officers outside the doors on Monday said they were still wondering when they would be paid.
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.