Filibuster Ends After U.S. Tells 500,000 to Go Home : ‘Essential’ Aides Kept on the Job
The federal government, having ample money but no authority to spend it, sent home half a million non-essential employees, including President Reagan’s maids and gardeners, at midday today because Congress, stalled by a filibuster, failed to approve needed spending legislation.
“It’s finally come to the point where we can’t put it off any longer,” said Ed Dale, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget.
“We can’t keep people in place if we can’t pay them,” he said, after OMB Director James C. Miller III sent notice to government agencies to start sending non-essential employees home. Personnel such as the military and air traffic controllers were told to remain on the job.
Late in the afternoon, the Senate resolved a spending dispute, ending the filibuster by first-term Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.). However, other obstacles to final passage still remained.
D’Amato, who is running for reelection, paralyzed the Senate--and the government--until late afternoon with his combative filibuster to save an Air Force contract for a single airplane manufacturer on Long Island, where D’Amato began his political career as Hempstead town supervisor.
The senator’s filibuster delayed passage of a $576-billion catch-all spending bill needed to fund virtually all aspects of the federal government.
Four times since the fiscal year began Oct. 1 Congress has approved stopgap bills to tide things over because of stalemates over the long-term legislation. The last stopgap bill expired at midnight.
Likened to Schoolchildren
“Once again, Congress has shown it has the discipline of a group of schoolchildren before recess,” said Sen. William V. Roth Jr., (R-Del.), echoing the frustration of a body that had already overstayed its intended term by two weeks.
The Postal Service was not affected by the shutdown because it is a private corporation which is not dependent on government appropriations. Few of the Defense Department’s civilians were in the non-essential category and a directive went out that “All military personnel shall continue to report for normal duty.”
The White House sent home some of the household help and most members of the press office. President Reagan was en route to Grand Forks, N.D., on a political outing when the shutdown took effect.
Monuments Close Down
The Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument and St. Louis’ Gateway Arch all were closed because U.S. Park Service employees were sent home.
Exactly at noon, federal workers began streaming out of the Treasury Department. The department’s cafeteria was nearly deserted.
(In Los Angeles, thousands of federal workers were sent home this morning. Particularly hard hit was the Internal Revenue Service where only “a couple of hundred” of 3,000 employees remained on duty, an IRS spokesman said.
(The Social Security Administration’s 150 management personnel in Los Angeles remained at work, but 1,350 other workers left early, a spokesman reported.
Courts Continue Operating
(Business continued pretty much as usual in federal courtrooms in Los Angeles, where U.S. attorneys, court clerks and law enforcement personnel remained at their stations.)
Only one out of four employees nationwide was considered non-essential. The government’s $240-million-a-day payroll covers 2.1 million civilian workers.
The government workers are not supposed to be paid for the time they are off. But after similar shutdowns in 1981 and 1984, Congress ordered that the employees furloughed get their regular salaries anyway.