Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid knocked fellow members of Congress for “showing off” with their individual decisions not to furlough their staffers during the federal government shutdown.
“Some members of Congress are showing off, ‘I’m not closing my office,’” Reid said on the Senate floor Saturday, referring to the staff furlough decisions left up to each member since the Oct. 1 shutdown.
Reid has told much of his staff to stay home. “I’ve closed my office because [I] don’t think my employees should be treated any different than someone that’s working for the Bureau of Land Management or the FBI," he said. "They’re closed.”
Officials in the House and Senate left it up to each member of Congress to decide which staffers were “essential” to helping them carry out their constitutional duties. They have been required to report since Tuesday, while many others were asked to turn in their iPhones, BlackBerries and laptops and head home, or check daily email for rolling furlough updates.
“I have people who work for me that are that are graduates of the best schools in America,” Reid said. “They're here because they believe in public policy, they believe in being public servants. And they are a being told that they’re nonessential?”
Reid has furloughed about 50 percent of his leadership and personal staff, according to his office. His entire district staff in Nevada, with the exception of the state director and the southern Nevada director, are furloughed.
The members Reid knocked, who declared their entire staff to be “essential," include Democrats and Republicans in both chambers.
Rep. Steve King, for instance, has yet to furlough any of his staff, though the Iowa Republican said Friday he hasn't made any long-term decisions.
"We don't know how this is going to emerge. We don't know what kind of demands were going to have," King said. "I want to make sure that we have people here to answer the phones, to respond to the needs that we have, to deal with any legislation that we might be able to work."
"I'm also finding that some of the other members have furloughed their staff and now they can't function, and my staff is picking up the slack for some of them," King said, declining to name any of his colleagues in that predicament.
King said Friday that in addition to working longer than normal hours, members of his staff would also be at work over the weekend.
Reid's remarks were delivered about an hour after the House passed a bill that guarantees back-pay for all furloughed employees when an appropriations deal is reached.