News Column

Federal Workers to Learn Their Shutdown Status

September 27, 2013
Federal Workers

Federal workers will be told Friday who can and cannot work if Washington shuts down, officials said, as congressional brinkmanship moves close to the wire.

The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management said Thursday they would put their shutdown plans online Friday afternoon.

Supervisors will then tell employees if they can expect to be furloughed after Monday, the last day of the fiscal year, the National Treasury Employees Union said.

The final word on who works and who doesn't is expected to come early Tuesday if a stopgap measure to fund the government for 46 days is not passed in Congress and signed into law by then, the union said.

The possible government shutdown is one of two fiscal crises rattling lawmakers. The other is the federal debt limit, set to be reached in 20 days.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Congress Wednesday he would run out of emergency borrowing measures "no later than Oct. 17." Without the additional borrowing authority, the government's $30 billion cash on hand "would be far short of net expenditures on certain days, which can be as high as $60 billion," he said.

Amid fractious jockeying, the Senate faces a critical vote Friday on funding the government through Nov. 15, the first 1 1/2 months of the new fiscal year.

Senate Democrats plan to restore money for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that House Republicans removed last week, leaving the two chambers in conflict.

If the measure passes as expected, the Senate would then send it back to the House for acceptance or change.

When House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was asked Thursday if he would put the expected Senate-passed stopgap spending bill to a vote, he said, "I do not see that happening."

But Boehner also said he didn't expect a government shutdown. Many GOP officials say they want to avoid one because they don't want their party blamed for it.

Boehner ally Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, told The Washington Post he thought the speaker would amend the Senate's bill to add a one-year delay of the healthcare law's individual mandate, which requires all Americans to have health insurance next year.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., another Boehner ally, told the newspaper he thought Boehner would seek to add a measure that would eliminate subsidies for members of Congress to buy health insurance.

But some Republicans complained to Boehner in a closed-door meeting Thursday they didn't like that idea because such a move would create an economic hardship for their families, GOP aides told the Post.

House lawmakers are expected to be in session this weekend to take up the bill.

Concerning the debt ceiling, conservative House members laid out demands Thursday for an increase. They said they'd approve the increase and avoid a mid-October U.S. default -- a first in history -- only if Democrats accepted Republican priorities, including a one-year delay of the healthcare law, a tax overhaul and a broad rollback of environmental regulations.

They also insisted on eliminating a $23 billion fund to ensure the orderly dissolution of failed major banks, eliminating mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limiting medical malpractice lawsuits and increasing means testing for Medicare, among other provisions.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 2 Democrat, derided their demands.

"The House is attaching the Republican Party platform to the debt ceiling," he said. "In a week full of absurdities, this one takes the cake."

President Obama repeated Thursday he wouldn't negotiate on the debt ceiling or sign any bill that defunds or delays the healthcare law, also known as "Obamacare."

He lashed out at Republicans for moves he said would endanger "the full faith and credit of the United States of America."

"You don't mess with that," he said in a speech in Largo, Md.

"No Congress before this one has ever -- ever -- in history been irresponsible enough to threaten default, to threaten an economic shutdown, to suggest America not pay its bills, just to try to blackmail a president into giving them some concessions on issues that have nothing to do with a budget," he said.

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