The PJ Tatler

D.C. Delegate Designates All of Her Staff 'Essential'

Congressional members are taking different tacks on what to do with their staffs during the government shutdown.

The Committee on House Administration leaves staffing decisions up to each member of Congress. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) designated every member of her staff as “essential” — meaning they have to show up for work during the shutdown but won’t get paid.

“The burden and the responsibilities of the staff that represent the District of Columbia are always greater than for other districts, particularly considering that the shutdown of the federal government could bring down the D.C. government with it. We represent a district that has no senators and only one member of Congress. Our local government’s balanced budget is tied up in a congressional fight, and the chances of a shutdown have grown greater than 50-50 with every day. The District has had to cobble together a way to keep the city open. We cannot abandon our constituents,” Norton said in a memo to staff.

“Your work is vital to D.C. residents and to me to carry out my constitutional responsibilities as a member of Congress. We must always be on the job and available to the residents of the District of Columbia. I know that they are grateful for your service. I am particularly grateful to each of you.”

Norton particularly wanted to make sure that her staff would be there at an open house she’s holding later today, “an all hands on deck event.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), though, decided not to keep most of his staff around toiling for free, noting his the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is closed as well as the rest of the government.

“One of the the things that pains me the most about this shutdown is that it will affect the people of Delaware directly. Like millions of federal employees, a majority of my staff won’t be able to work during the shutdown. As such, my staff and I will be unable to respond to your phone calls and emails during this time. Please know that I will be working with my congressional colleagues to find a responsible way to end this shutdown as soon as possible,” Carper said in an email to constituents.

Committee meetings across the Hill were canceled this week even as Congress remains in session.

“As of midnight yesterday, my district offices will be closed until further notice in accordance with the Constitution and the Anti-Deficiency Act,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.). “My Washington office will remain open but have limited resources to provide public services. We will continue to keep constituents informed on the latest regarding this shutdown through my website.”

Carper, who will not keep staff around to update his website or social media, said “both Democrats and Republicans have to realize that this is not a zero-sum game.”

“We need to do better and we can if we begin working together once again and stop these needless acts of political brinkmanship,” he said.

Calls to closed congressional offices will go directly to voicemail. Essential staff kept around by members will periodically check the messages to see if there are constituent emergencies among them.