Archive for April 8, 2011


If you are one of the country’s two million federal workers right now, you’re in one of two categories: excepted or non-excepted. An impasse among lawmakers on a spending plan for 2011 has most federal employees hoping they are in the former category, because if an agreement by lawmakers can’t be reached by midnight tonight, the government will be shut down.

And those workers in the non-excepted camp risk being furloughed without pay until lawmakers can agree on a plan.

According to CNN’s MoneyLine, there are about 800,000 excepted employees. Those include workers needed to continue the operating functions of essential work. People like air traffic controllers and TSA workers, and federal police and military personnel. Those employees are expected to be credited with back pay when a spending bill is eventually passed.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, there are three categories of “excepted” employees:

  1. performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property;
  2. performing minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities; or
  3. performing certain other types of excepted work. Agency legal counsels, working with senior agency managers, are determining which employees are designated to be handling “excepted” and “non-excepted” functions.

According to OPM, employees will be notified by their supervisor of their status as excepted or non-excepted workers. During the time of the furlough, some benefits, like unpaid leave and vacation may be canceled, but other benefits, like Federal Employee Health Benefits are ongoing—in other words, your health insurance will still be good.

For more information, see the Q&A page at the Office of Personnel Management website.

Military personnel

According to the Defense Department, Sec. Robert Gates told military personnel in Iraq on Thursday that if a shutdown took place, they would receive a paycheck with half pay. The following pay period, there would be no paycheck. Deputy Secretary William Lynn III released a statement that said military personnel should show up for work at their next schedule duty day after any shutdown. Civilian personnel would be briefed on their status by supervisors.

Local businesses:

According to Kristen Minogue, spokesman for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, SERC will be closed. Public programs will be suspended until the shutdown is over.

Local government and defense contractors will not be paid during the shutdown, but contracted workers and completed contract work will be compensated once a spending plan is finalized. Hopefully, for most local businesses that rely on government contracts, they can float payroll to staff until Congress and the White House reach a consensus.

Transportation

BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport: Both Transportation Security Administration and Air Traffic Controllers are considered emergency personnel and as a result, services at airports will not be impacted by the shutdown.

Metro: WMATA will be running both bus and Metro subway service on time, but perhaps using fewer cars on trains and fewer buses into the city. According to a press statement from the transit authority, “[W]e estimate that the temporary shuttering of certain federal government offices could reduce ridership from 5 to 20 percent, depending upon the decisions made to continue some federal operations and essential services. In the event ridership decreases to levels of federal holidays, we may operate fewer 8-car trains.”

Dillon’s Bus Service: Commuter service out of Annapolis and Davidsonville will continue operating on a normal schedule.

MARC train service will be operating on a normal schedule.

Government Services

Veterans Health Administration medical centers are considered essential and will be open. However, veterans will not be able to apply for new benefits during a shutdown. The two local Veteran’s Administration centers that would be impacted:

  • Annapolis Vet Center, 1419 Forest Dr., Suite 102, Annapolis, Md., 21403. 410-605-7826.
  • Glen Burnie VA Outpatient Clinic, 808 Landmark Drive, Suite 128, Glen Burnie, Md., 21061. 410-590-4140

National Parks

National Parks and National Historic Sites will be closed. National Park Service-operated roadways and parkways (George Washington Memorial Parkway, Baltimore-Washington Parkway) will remain open and operational. Click here for a complete list of National Parks in Maryland.

Home Loan Applications

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-administered loans will be suspended. New paperwork filings will be on hold until the shutdown is over. FHA loans account for approximately 30 percent of home loans secured in America.

Income Tax

With the Tax Day deadline set for April 18, the Internal Revenue Service will halt the processing of payments and refunds on paper-filed income taxes. Online, or e-filing, will carry on and refunds for e-filers will continue to be processed.

A local Broadneck resident and federal government employee, described her current feelings on the situation to Broadneck Patch:

“It seems like they forget that federal employees also have student loans, car payments, and rent to pay. Not all federal employees are lazy or “should-be-retired” money-wasters. It’s not nice that they lump everyone into one category. Furlough will not only make federal employees more jaded than they already are (morale is very low as it is), inefficiency will be rampant…which is what people criticize the government for anyway. OPM says that federal employees can apply for unemployment. Why not let federal employees DO THEIR JOBS rather than let them eat away that money?  Seems really backwards.”

 


Health Plan News has put together the following list of health insurance plan companies. We do not endorse or recommend any of these companies. This list is here for your convenience and we try our best to keep it up to date.

HERE YOU GO CHOOSE ONE NO NEED TO RELY ON THE GOVT. TO PROVIDE YOU HEALTH COVERAGE.


Republicans say that if the Democratic majority of 2010 would have passed a budget or 2011 we would not be facing a Govt. shutdown. Once again what you have here is the fact that the Democratic majority did not think that their super majority would have been so short lived. They thought the Democratic Super Majority would have lasted well into the 2014 year. They failed to understand the message sent to them when the American people took to the polls in Nov. of 2010 and swept out their Majority with an over whelming Republican sweep. So now the Democrats are now scrambling to point the fingers at Republicans for a Govt. Shutdown. The Republicans are only simply doing exactly what they said they were going to do and what the American people want them to do.

House Speaker John Boehner said today he will return his pay during the days the government is shut down. He made the promise as it became clear that Republicans and Democrats — bitterly divided over women’s health funding programs — will be hard pressed to reach a deal hours before the budget deadline expires.

In the case of a government shutdown, essential personnel who are kept on duty — including troops in the field — do not receive paychecks, but members of Congress do.

“In the event of a lapse in appropriations for fiscal year 2011 causing a government shutdown, I will return any and all compensation that I would otherwise be entitled during such a lapse in appropriations,” Boehner said in a letter to fellow House members.

Sixty senators have signed on to a bill that would ensure troops are paid through a shutdown, but time is quickly running out.

Republican and Democratic negotiators huddled behind closed doors into the early hours of the morning today to hash out a budget deal, and talks are continuing. But there is still no deal to avert a government shutdown at midnight tonight if no bill is agreed upon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he’s hopeful the two sides can reach a deal today and said they had agreed to $38 billion in cuts and the Republicans’ 65 so-called “policy riders,” except the one that aims to bar funding for Planned Parenthood. He denounced Republicans, saying talks have deadlocked on “ideology.”

“Republicans want to shut down the government because they think there’s nothing more important than keeping women from getting cancer screenings,” he said. “This is indefensible and everyone should be outraged. Men and women should be outraged. Republican House leadership have only a few hours left to look in the mirror and snap out of it and realize how positively shameful it would be.”

Senate Democrats will offer their own temporary resolution that would fund the government for another week. House Republicans passed a temporary measure Thursday but it was dismissed by Democrats as political cover and ideological.

Republicans say there’s no agreement on the budget cuts and blame Democrats for not being serious about the cuts.

“If the government shuts down, it’s either because Democrats are pretending, pretending that a previously non-controversial provision is suddenly out of bounds or they refuse to take another baby step in the direction of balancing the government checkbook, something we know the American people want,” said Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Reid and Boehner met with President Obama at the White House Thursday night for their fourth meeting this week.

Sources said Democrats moved up their number to agree to $34.5 billion in spending cuts. Republicans came down to $39 billion, but there’s squabbling over about $6.5 billion. Republicans also want to add $2 billion in defense spending, which would be offset by domestic cuts.

Republicans and the president are essentially in a standoff over 0.17 percent of the budget, but the main battle is over health care services for women.

Abortion has taken center stage in the fight over spending cuts. The abortion measure in the House Republicans’ extension bill, and one they say they won’t budge on, would reinstate a policy that prevented the District of Columbia from using locally generated taxes to provide financial help to poor women for abortions.

The House voted earlier this year to defund Planned Parenthood, but 41 Democrats in the Senate have already said they would not support that legislation. The White House has said the president would not agree to any ban on funds to Planned Parenthood.

“We’ve come to realize that the moving target has now focused a bulls eye on women in America,” Reid said. “We agreed on a number. But we are not — we are not — bending on women’s health.”

Planned Parenthood is already prohibited from using any federal funds for abortion-related services. Officials of the organization say more than 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood clinics do has nothing to do with abortion, but rather focuses on women’s health services such as pap smears and mammograms.

Abortion opponents say federal funding for other services means money freed up for the purposes of conducting abortions, which they regard as ending human life.

Republicans deny that Planned Parenthood is the main remaining sticking point, saying that spending is the key issue.

“There’s only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said today. “We’re close to a resolution on the policy issues, but I think the American people deserve to know, when will the White House, and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?”

Republicans say they have offered to drop the restriction on Planned Parenthood, replacing it with a provision that would give family planning aid to the states in the form of block grants. The states would then decide which organizations would get the money. But that is not acceptable to Democrats.

The president cancelled his scheduled trip to Indiana today and will remain in Washington, D.C. to take part in the negotiations. It’s unclear whether the Obamas will take their long planned trip to Colonial Williamsburg this weekend. All national parks will close in the event of a government shutdown.

A shutdown would have wide ripple effects, including perhaps 800,000 federal worker furloughs, curtailment of public services such as mortgage, passport and loan processing, delayed tax refunds, interruption of military paychecks and disruption to a recovering economy.

The last time the government shutdown fully was in 1995, under President Clinton, for five days. A 21-day partial shutdown followed soon after.

Under federal laws, essential staff still have to report to work, but all nonessential staff will be furloughed without pay. Each agency is responsible for identifying its essential staff. Federal employees who are “necessary to protect life and property” and are needed to perform an “orderly shutdown of emergency operations” are considered “essential.” That includes most national intelligence staff, military personnel, air traffic controllers, law enforcement, emergency and disaster personnel, the Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard and similar staff.

Furloughed staff are not allowed to work as unpaid volunteers to the government, enter their offices, use their work BlackBerries or computers, and access their work email.


Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas

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The S. 724, The Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act will have 78 votes…WHAT IS S.724?

S. 724:
A bill to appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, and supporting civilian and contractor personnel continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed when a funding gap caused by the failure to enact interim or full-year appropriations for the Armed Forces occurs, which results in the furlough of non-emergency personnel and the curtailment of Government activities and services.

Today, Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Bob Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to their Senate colleagues asking them to sign on to S.724, a bill to ensure that military servicemembers are paid in the event of a government shutdown. Hutchison noted that 51 Senators have already signed on but 60 are needed to pass this critical legislation.

Text of letter:

April 7, 2011
S. 724, The Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act

Dear Colleague:

As Congress continues deliberations on how the federal government will be funded for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011, it is important that steps be taken to ensure that any potential disruption in government funding will have a minimal impact on our nation’s brave men and women in uniform. That is why we have introduced S. 724, the Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act.

This common sense legislation will ensure that, in the event of a government shutdown, our troops will continue to be paid on time. This language covers all active duty military, reserve components, and Coast Guard servicemembers. Additionally, this legislation would give discretion to the Secretary of Defense to allow Department of Defense civilians and contractors who support the military the ability to be paid during a government shutdown.

The men and women who serve our nation each and every day at home and in operations across the world deserve our full support. At a time when more than 90,000 servicemembers are in Afghanistan and 47,000 in Iraq, it is crucial that Congress act to make sure that these brave men and women are not subjected to any disruptions in their hard earned pay. Such an action would significantly cause financial strain on military families, damage morale, and negatively impact military readiness.

For more information or to become a co-sponsor, please contact Senator Hutchison’s office and Senator Casey‘s office.

Sincerely,

Kay Bailey Hutchison           Robert Casey

Resources:
Watch: Sen. Hutchison’s floor speech
Read: Update – Hutchison Efforts to Pay Military in Govt. Shutdown Gaining Momentum
Read: Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act Press Release


 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and President Obama met twice Thursday to work out a deal but no agreement was reached. During a news conference late in the evening, Pres. Obama stated “differences have been narrowed but we have not yet reached a deal.” He also added staff would work throughout night and hopes a deal will be reached this morning.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of  247 – 181 another short-term continuing resolution to fund the government for one additional week. It includes $12 billion worth of spending cuts, while also funding the Defense Department for the remainder of the year.

But, Senate Democrats and the President rejected that measure.  Senator Reid said it is a “non starter,” and President Obama released a statement saying he would veto the bill.

Pres. Obama has cancelled a planned weekend trip to Williamsburg, VA, in order to stay in Washington and continue work on budget negotiations.

Stay with the C‑SPAN networks for coverage of the funding discussion, including briefings from the Capitol and White House.


President Barack Obama shakes hands with Senat...

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I have been watching this situation very carefully and here is my take on the situation. The Democrats are refusing to budge as are the Republicans. See lets go back to Nov. 2010 real quick there was a loud and clear message sent to D.C but yet the Democrats in power dismissed this. The American people did not just send this new congress there to play games. The Democrats in power who did not adhere to the Nov. 2010 election now knows that the out of control spending will be stopped.

President Obama’s very own party has slightly shifted from him and it would not surprise me as if they joined forces with the Sen. Republicans to overturn his veto if he dishes out a veto for continuing to fund our troops.  The out of control Govt. spending programs HAVE to stop; you cannot spend your way out of debt. How many of you that are in debt actually have spent your way out of debt with money you did not have? You have to save and save and save some more, there is no other way to get out of debt other than to save your money make some sacrifices and pay the debts down with the money you save. So what is the 1st step to eliminating your debt problems? You slash your budgets; you look to see what the necessity is and what the luxury is. The luxury is your wasteful spending so you start slashing back on your luxuries. Then you allocate that money towards paying down your debts.

This is not rocket science this is common sense and to think that you can cut your necessities and allocate that monies to your luxuries in order to cut down you debt is nothing short of ludicrous. But apparently the Democrats believe this is the proper way to go. So what does a Govt. shutdown mean for you? If you are a federal employee then I am sure the agency you work for has provided you with instructions on what to do. But for the vast majority of Americans you know the ones that rely on the Pvt. Sector in order to feed their families not really much will affect you. Unless you are trying to get like a passport or wanting to visit the Smithsonian museum or unless you are an American soldier then you’re up with the other Federal agencies and won’t get a paycheck until the Govt. works out a budget plan.

So the end of the world is not going to happen if we have a Govt. Shutdown look we had a Govt. Shutdown in 95-96 for 21 days and we are all still here. I am sure there will be some kind of compromise met between the Speaker of the House and Sen. Harry Reid and President Obama. But just in case there isn’t then do not panic!