The Cable

Congressmen get paid during shutdown, most staffers out of luck

If a government shutdown hits Washington on Friday, thousands of government employees will be sent home without pay and soldiers in the field will have to temporarily fight without compensation until the politicians figure it out. But Congressmen get to set their own shutdown rules -- and they will continue to get paid. Most of their staffers won't.

"Congress has its own shutdown planning and set of guidelines," a senior administration official told reporters on a Wednesday conference call about the potential shutdown. The legislative branch is subject to the shutdown but is able to set its own rules on who gets to keep working, who gets paid, and who gets retroactively reimbursed.

A senior administration official confirmed to The Cable that even if the taps are shut off, all Congressmen will later be reinbursed their entire salaries no matter how long the shutdown lasts. Staffers who are deemed essential enough to keep working through the crisis could also get paid, but most will be sent home, without pay for the forced leave.

On the conference call, the officials confirmed The Cable's report that uniformed members of the military will not get paid during the shutdown, although they will get the money back later (not with interest). The officials also confirmed that the vast majority of Defense Department, State Department, and USAID civilians would be furloughed, as well as most White House staff.

"We expect that a significant number of DOD employees, unfortunately, would be furloughed during this shutdown," the official said.

We're told by multiple State Department officials that planned trips have already been cancelled and some officials abroad are being told to return home early, put newly incurred costs on their credit cards, and hope for reimbursement later.

A host of other important government services would also be suspended. The Internal Revenue Service would stop processing paper tax return filings and doing audits. The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees one of every three mortgages, would stop functioning. The Small Business Administration would stop approving loans for small businesses.

"This would have a significant effect on our economic momentum," the official said.

Ramping up the pressure even further, the official also wanted Washington residents to know that unless Republicans agree to a deal, "The Cherry Blossom parade will not happen this weekend."

Officially called the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, the longtime spring tradition in downtown D.C. features "lavish floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands, and performers... in an energy-filled spectacle of music and showmanship seen only once a year."

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