October 1, 2013 at 10:24 AM
Murray, Cantwell furlough most staff; House Democrats hang on to employees
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell on Tuesday furloughed the “overwhelming majority” of their staffs and closed their district offices in Washington state because of the federal government shutdown.
Murray’s spokesman Matt McAlvanah said the decision was based on “legal guidance our office has received” about which employees are deemed essential and exempt from furloughs.
At least four of the delegation’s Democratic House members, however, said they have retained all their staff members.
“All of our employees, in the district and D.C., are essential,” said Amber Macdonald, spokeswoman for Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle.
Reps. Suzan DelBene of Medina, Adam Smith of Bellevue and Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor also said they have not furloughed any employees.
In event of a lapse in appropriations, lawmakers have latitude in deciding which of their employees are essential to carrying out their “constitutional responsibilities.” Those duties include drafting bills, preparing for hearings and conducting research.
Spokesmen for two Republicans, Reps. Doc Hastings of Pasco and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas, said they have furloughed “some” staff members, but declined to elaborate.
Murray’s six offices in Washington — in Seattle, Everett, Spokane, Tacoma, Yakima and Vancouver, will not respond to calls and emails from constituents for the duration of the shutdown. Same for Cantwell’s six district offices, one of which is in Richland instead of Yakima.
Kilmer, on the other hand, announced Tuesday he would extend district office hours in Bremerton and Tacoma to assist constituents affected by the shutdown. Kilmer’s Sixth District includes Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, and the federal government is the district’s largest employer.
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