- By Adam Mazmanian
- Oct 01, 2013
The White House issued instructions to agency heads to begin to shut down non-essential government operations and furlough federal workers as the last hours of fiscal year 2013 ticked away.
A memo from Sylvia Burwell, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, told agencies to "execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations." It is the first shutdown since 1996, and one of a number of shutdowns over budget stalemates that have occurred during periods of divided government dating back to the Reagan presidency.
The news came as the House of Representatives was in the midst of passing a bill to appoint a conference committee to strike a deal on the budget. As the plan was being discussed in a late-night meeting of the House Rules Committee, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated that such a motion would be tabled until the House agreed to a six-week continuing resolution to fund the government with no policy riders altering or delaying the scheduled implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Before the House vote on the conference committee, that chamber had passed several versions of a continuing resolution to remove funding for the ACA, delay the Oct. 1 launch of open enrollment, delay the requirement that individuals carry health insurance, and eliminate premium support for members of Congress and staffers as well as the president, vice president and top executive branch appointees. All of these were batted away by the Senate in a series of party-line votes.
The Office of Personnel Management released detailed guidance for employees that delves into the minutiae of federal employment, such as how to get approval for outside work during a furlough, and what happens to feds who are on temporary details.
Federal workers will continue to be covered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits plan during a shutdown furlough. Their share of the premiums will be deducted from their paychecks when they return to work. There's no guarantee that federal employees will receive back pay for the furlough period -- Congress must authorize it. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) announced on Twitter that he was going to co-sponsor legislation along with Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) to secure retroactive pay for furloughed workers.
Furloughed feds will get paid for the four hours or so they are required to put in on Oct. 1 to prepare for a shutdown, per OMB guidance.
It's not clear what path the debate will take next. Legislators will soon grapple with an extension of the debt ceiling. It's possible that a resolution of the shutdown could be folded into a plan to avert a default on government payments that could occur as soon as Oct. 17, by Treasury estimates.
Adam Mazmanian is FCW's senior staff writer, and covers Congress, health IT and governmentwide IT policy. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.