Maine reps split on bill

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

With three days to go before the federal government is due to run out of money, Senate Democratic leaders hold a news conference after passing a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running, but stripped of the defund "Obamacare" language, as crafted by House Republicans, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. From left are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Democratic Policy Committee chairman, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.  

PORTLAND — Maine's U.S. senators were split on a measure to keep government operating past Tuesday.

Republican Susan Collins opposed the measure which, if approved in the House, will avoid a threatened government shutdown. Independent Angus King supported the measure. It passed the Senate 54-44 Friday afternoon but faces an uncertain future in the House as the high-stakes stand-off continues into the weekend.

One of the key sticking points is that conservative Republicans want to defund the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, while Democrats insist the health care plan must be funded.

Collins has said Obamacare is harmful law while King, in a floor speech Thursday, criticized Republicans for threatening to shut down government over the health care law.

Budget work to continue this weekend with three days left until shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than a third of federal workers would be told to stay home if the government shuts down, forcing the closure of national parks from California to Maine and all the Smithsonian museums. Low-to-moderate income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays.

These would be just some of the effects of a government shutdown that could furlough as many as 800,000 of the nation's 2.1 million federal workers. It could hit as early as Tuesday if a bitterly divided Congress fails to approve a temporary spending bill to keep the government running.

Supervisors at government agencies began meetings Thursday to decide which employees would continue to report to work and which would be considered nonessential and told to stay home under contingency plans ordered by the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB.

Details about shutdown plans for each agency were expected to be posted on the OMB and individual agency websites by Friday afternoon, according to union officials briefed on the process. Formal furlough notices would be sent on Tuesday, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

"Fifty percent of our members may be locked out of work altogether during this shutdown," said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "Half will be expected to continue to work without a paycheck."

Employees who are deemed essential and keep working will not be paid during the shutdown. Once Congress does approve new funding, they would receive retroactive pay.

Not all government would cease to operate. Services considered critical to national security, safety and health would go on as usual, such as border patrol, law enforcement and emergency and disaster assistance. Social Security and Medicare benefits would keep coming, for example, but there likely would be delays in processing new disability applications.

Active-duty military personnel are exempt from furloughs, as are employees of the U.S. Postal Service, which doesn't depend on annual appropriations from Congress.

Union officials said preparations for a possible shutdown have created anxiety and uncertainty among federal workers and among those who have an expectation of government services.

"Federal agencies have had to devote time and resources to develop yet another crisis plan, distracting agencies from their critical missions," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "And, if the government shuts down, the public will be further harmed by the loss of vital services people need and depend upon."

The last shutdown, which took place during the Clinton administration, lasted three weeks, from Dec. 16, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996.

At the Smithsonian, a majority of the 6,400 employees at 19 museums would be furloughed, said spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas. Museum doors would remain closed as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, ruining vacation plans for thousands of tourists expecting to see the National Air and Space Museum or view art at one of the museum's galleries.

The National Park Service was expected to announce the specific impact of a shutdown on Friday. A contingency plan prepared in 2011 — the last time a shutdown loomed — said all 401 of the country's national parks would close and cease activities except for those necessary to respond to emergencies.

Federal courts plan to keep operations going for at least 10 business days in the event of a shutdown — roughly through Oct. 15 — using fees and other funds. But after that, only essential work would continue, and each court would determine what staff is needed, according to a Sept. 24 memo from U.S. District Judge John Bates, director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Federal jury trials should continue as necessary, the memo said, and staff performing essential work at federal courts would report to work without getting paid. They would be paid when appropriations were restored.

Most of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's operations would cease under the shutdown, according to Jereon Brown, a HUD spokesman. That means many low-to-moderate income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays. The Federal Housing Administration, which is overseen by HUD, won't be able to underwrite or approve any new loans during the shutdown, Brown said.

The Environmental Protection Agency would essentially be closed to most of its approximately 17,000 employees, except for those involved in shutting down systems, tasked with emergency cleanups or doing legal work in ongoing federal cases, said John O'Grady, president of the local union of EPA employees in Chicago.

NASA is still working on shutdown plans, but the agency doesn't have a launch scheduled until Nov. 6, spokesman Bob Jacobs said. Nearly all but a few hundred of the space agency's 18,000 employees would be furloughed under a contingency plan outlined in 2011.

In past shutdown threats, the space agency considered essential the operations of the International Space Station, where astronauts and cosmonauts live, and planned to continue supporting the mission if the government had shuttered, Jacobs said.

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Comments

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Susan Collins just lost my respect........

Claudette Therriault's picture

If the health care law was a

If the health care law was a Republican Idea, we would not have a problem. It's not about the Obamacare, it's about the GOP's hatred for Obama

Congress has become a playground of children who can't get along. If the GOP does not get their way, they will take their ball and go home. (Shut down the Government). As far as our Maine delegation goes, I used to have respect for Senator Collins because she used to do what was right for Maine. Thank goodness for Senator Angus King who has kept a cool head and is doing the right thing for his constituents.

David Marsters's picture

Government shutdown

If the government has nonessential workers, why do we need them. Cut all nonessential workers and save the country money.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Law is what determines the difference, not a label.

During a lapse in appropriations, some employees may continue to work as a matter of law, others may not; a distinction made by law, not by the value of their work.”

In Government Shut Down, Congress Members Still Get Paid While Federal Workers Wait In Limbo, those are the ones the federal establishment labeled" nonessential".

But at least 535 civil servants in Washington don't have to worry about missed mortgage payments or mounting credit card debt due to a shutdown: the very members of Congress who threaten to grind government to a halt.

“Excepted” employees are not necessarily the same as “emergency employees” who must report for work in emergency situations such as severe weather. Employees not subject to a shutdown furlough because they work in functions not affected by an appropriations lapse, such as the Postal Service, are called “exempt.”

Regardless of official terminology, “People revert to the old language. For some the term nonessential means it’s not important. Which is not the original intent.”

Susan Luhrs's picture

non-essential workers

David, the label of non-essential is a non sequitur - the workers are essential to do the work of government, but the nonessential ones are the ones who have to be constantly on the job. It includes the military, corrections, the Postal Service, air traffic control, and NOAA. You can't run a government with only those workers, but those are the workers who must be there no matter what, essentially 24. Now, if the government is shut down, those people have to work, but, since the non-essential workers aren't working, there would be no one to process their pay info or do any other work, so they wouldn't get paid without a delay, either.

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