Las Vegas (CBS VEGAS/AP) – In addition to the nearly 800,000 furloughed federal workers remaining idle, the government shutdown has also put many lawmakers’ staffs on hold.
Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s office has deemed 40 percent of his staff “essential,” and the rest has been furloughed, as the federal government shutdown continues.
Lawmakers can deem their employees as “essential” through the end of the week if they believe such staffers are necessary for day-to-day duties. There is no limit to the amount of staffers that can receive the “essential” designation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., earlier this week said, “We’re locked in tight on Obamacare,” and stated that neither President Barack Obama nor the Democrats will accept changes in the nation’s 3-year-old health care law as the price for spending legislation needed to end the two-day partial shutdown.
In an attempt to reach out to Reid’s Washington, D.C. office, it appears his office has completely shut down.
“Hello. You’ve reached Sen. Reid’s Washington D.C. office,” a subdued recording begins. “Due to the government shutdown, we are unable to answer phones, email correspondence or other constituent services. Please call back at a later time. Thank you very much.”
A computerized voice immediately chimes in, “Thanks for calling. Goodbye.”
Republican Nevada Sen. Dean Heller’s office was staffing its phones – with Heller himself,” reports the Reno Gazette.
“A call to the Washington, D.C., office shortly after noon Wednesday was answered by Heller, who has been taking turns with his staffers answering phones.”
Reaching out to Cruz – the man who spearheaded the “defund Obamacare” effort and has been castigated by Democrats as part of an “extremist wing” of the Republican Party – had a cheerier message system from the senator himself that allowed for messages, office hours and the ability to speak with part of his “essential” staff.
Congress has passed more than 100 temporary funding bills since the last shutdown in 1996, almost all of them without controversy, reports The Associated Press. The streak was broken because conservative Republicans have held up the current measure in the longshot hope of derailing or delaying Obamacare, just as the health insurance markets at the heart of the law opened on Tuesday.
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