Sen. Joe Manchin answering his own phone after losing some staff due to the government shutdown (courtesy photo)
For the time being, all three of West Virginia’s representatives in the U.S. House designated all of their staff essential for congressional work as the national debate over the federal shutdown continues.
Both senators appear to have furloughed at least some of their staff
After Congress failed to agree on a measure to fund the federal government, roughly 800,000 employees nationwide were told Tuesday they couldn’t go to work.
National lawmakers are considered “essential” employees, and as such continue to receive their pay as mandated by law.
Their staff members are not considered essential by law. However, a lawmaker can declare employees essential if they believe the workers are needed to help with the legislator’s essential duties. A senator or representative can declare as many members of their staff “essential” as they feel is necessary.
As of late Tuesday, Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley, both R-W.Va., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., all declared every member of their staffs essential. Spokespeople for each of the lawmakers confirmed staff members continued to work during the shutdown.
Capito employs 16 people, and McKinley employs 13, spokesmen for the representatives said. A spokeswoman for Rahall confirmed all of the congressman’s employees are still working, but did not say how many people work in the office.
Rep. David McKinley, Rep. Nick Rahall, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Sen. Joe Manchin at an event earlier this year after West Virginia’s pepperoni roll won a national competition of state foods.
Keeping everyone on board ensures better constituent services, spokespeople for each representative said.
“In the beginning all employees are deemed essential to assist constituents with the many questions and concerns in regard to the shutdown,” said Joel Brubaker, Capito’s chief of staff. ” In all likelihood, the office would begin rotating furloughs if a shutdown continues.”
Jim Forbes, spokesman for McKinley, said the congressman already keeps a “lean” staff, adding furloughs could be necessary if the shutdown persists.
“Congressman McKinley is focused on doing the work the people of the First District sent him to Washington to do and resolving this situation,” Forbse said. “During this temporary lapse in funding, he intends to keep a staffing level that will ensure he can carry out his constitutional responsibilities and represent his constituents.”
Diane Luensmann, a Rahall spokeswoman, said the office had already eliminated staff in the previous fiscal year due to the sequester and “previous budget cuts.”
Senators have more employees than representatives. As such, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was able to furlough about a 30 people and still have employees Tuesday.
The senator employs 27 people in Washington, D.C. and 17 in West Virginia usually, said spokesman Jonathan Kott. Monday, 11 were still working in the nation’s capitol and two remained on the job in West Virgina.
Attempts to contact anyone from the office of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., were unsuccessful. A spokesman did not return phone messages, and an automatic reply to an email said he could not read his email during the government shutdown.
No one answered the phone at Rockefeller’s local or D.C. offices either. In both cases, messages said no one could talk during the shutdown.
“Unfortunately, due to the government shutdown, our offices are closed,” someone says after in a recorded message at several Rockefeller offices.
The message states the senator is working hard to try and find a resolution.
Check back at charlestondailymail.com for updates as the situation changes.