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Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sent a message to all DOJ employees Tuesday morning.

“I am grateful for your dedicated service and I am mindful of how difficult this shutdown is on you, the Department’s hard-working employees,” he said. “While I hope that Congress will act to resolve this situation quickly, I will make every effort to keep you informed over the coming days.”

The Antideficiency Act of 1884 in part governs federal behavior during a shutdown, and the government has interpreted it to mean employees are basically prevented from doing anything work-related.

The Government Accountability Office says the idea is that federal employees should not force the government to incur debts it later must pay — in this case, salaries. So no catching up on paperwork, no making job-related phone calls and even, the GAO says, no volunteering to work for free.