WASHINGTON (Detroit Free Press) - In congressional offices as with the rest of the federal government, whether you stay on the job or go home on furlough as part of the shutdown is all a matter of who you work for and what you do for them.
Michigan's congressional delegation ran the gambit: Some offices were cutting back staff sharply in the wake of the shutdown that began at 12:01 a.m Tuesday. Others were putting their employees on a rotating schedule. Still others declared all their workers essential and kept them all on the job.
In office of U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, for instance, spokesman Mitchell Rivard said the congressman had determined "all of his staff are essential in order to continue serving his constituents" and kept everyone on payroll at work.
Others - including Democratic Reps. John Dingell of Dearborn and Sander Levin of Royal Oak, as well as Republican Reps. Kerry Bentivolio of Milford, Candice Miller of Harrison Township and Mike Rogers of Howell - were also keeping their full staffs on the job.
"We have been receiving many calls from across my district expressing concern over not being able to get through to other federal agencies or the White House," Miller said. "We remain open and ready to assist our constituents with addressing their concerns to the best of our ability."
Under rules regarding a shutdown, members of Congress have wide latitude in deciding which employees to keep on the job and which, if any, to furlough. The members of Congress themselves are also guaranteed pay during a shutdown, though three - U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, as well as U.S. Reps. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Bentivolio - said they either would not take a salary or give it to charity.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Carl Levin said he would keep his whole staff on the job, recalling that he did the same in the last shutdown 17 years ago - which turned out for the best, since Congress ended up paying all federal employees, including furloughed staff, retroactively.
Several members of the delegation didn't immediately respond to questions about their office staffs, including House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph; Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Midland; as well as U.S. Reps. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls; Tim Walberg, R-Tipton; and John Conyers, D-Detroit.
Others did plan for reductions, including U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, who was keeping just four people - two in Washington and two in Grand Rapids - on the job out of a staff of 14. U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, was closing his Grand Haven office and keeping about half his 16-member staff on the job on a rotating basis; Peters was going to do the same with his staff as well.
Stabenow expected to furlough most of her staff, saying, the rest of government - often based on how critical certain functions were - had been cut back, forcing "federal agencies to operate with minimal staff."
"My office is no different," she said.
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