'Non-Essential': Harry Reid Shuts Down Own Office

By Penny Starr | October 10, 2013 | 10:47am EDT

Sign on Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) office door saying closed "Due to the Government Shutdown." (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has closed his own Senate offices after having apparently determined that the staff he ordinarily uses to run them are "non-essential" government employees.

Meanwhile, many other Senate offices operated by members of both parties remain open because the senators who control them have apparently determined that the staff who maintain their offices are essential government employees.

To inform people that his Senate office is closed the Majority Leader has posted a sign on the door of his main Capitol Hill office saying that says: “Due to the Government Shutdown Senator Reid's Offices Are Closed. In the event of an emergency, please contact the Capitol Police on the 1st Floor. "

Reid has also posted a voice message on his government phone line informing people that his staff will not be returning calls or emails.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin's (D-Ill.) has similarly closed his office.

Senate staffers told CNSNews.com that it is up to each member of Congress to determine which staff to furlough and which to keep on the job, and whether to open or close their offices during .

A staff member in a Senate administrative office explained that Senate employees who stay on during the shutdown are not paid at that time but will be paid retroactively after an appropriations bill (continuing resolution) is approved and the government re-opened.

Sign on Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-Ill.) office door stating that because of the "partial federal government shutdown," the senator's "offices are closed." (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Payment details for these staff as well as for the furloughed--or "non-essential"--congressional employees will be spelt out in the final, approved appropriations bill.

A document published by the Committee on House Administration for members of Congress about procedures for operating during a shutdown explains that members are the "employing authority" and they decide which staffers are "essential" employees and which "should be furloughed."

The document explains "What is an 'essential' versus a 'non-essential' employee?"

An "essential" worker, it states,  is someone who directly supports a member of Congress in performing their constitutional responsibilities; supports "activities that entail the safe-guarding of human life; and those activities that entail the protection of property."

As the document states, "Employees performing the activities (or supporting the functions) described above as determined by their employing authority should continue performing their normal duties. All other employees should be placed in furlough status."

The door to Reid's Capitol Hill office is locked.

When CNSNews.com called the Senate Majority leader's office, no one answered and the voice mail said: "Hello, you have reached Senator Reid's Washington, D.C. office. Since the government shutdown, we are unable to respond to phone calls, e-mail correspondence, or other constituent services. You can leave your comments and opinions on Senator Reid's website at reid.senate.gov by clicking on the contact button. Thank you very much."

In addition to Reid and Durbin, Senators Sherrod Brown (D.-Ohio) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have also closed their offices.

A call to Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) office confirmed it is open, but her voice mail includes a message, telling callers the country is in the middle of “an outrageous government shutdown” that could be ended if the House passed a “clean” Continuing Resolution that would fund Obamacare.

CNSNews.com contacted the offices of senators who want to defund Obamacare, including Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kty.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). All three of their offices had a voice mail explaining that they are partially shutdown and that staff is checking voice mails, but no staff could be reached.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), another leader in the defund Obamacare movement in Congress, has chosen to keep his office open.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office is also open for business.

On the House side, phone calls to congressional offices showed that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) offices are open.

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