- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sunshine and oversight were two of the early casualties of the government shutdown, with the agencies charged with watching over the federal government saying they had to furlough employees in order to comply with the shutdown.

The watchdogs were among the hundreds of thousands of employees sent home from their jobs Tuesday in Washington.

At the Government Accountability Office, which is Congress’ chief investigative arm for keeping tabs on federal agencies, officials had shut down all operations and said they won’t be publishing any reports until the shutdown ends. The internal auditors at each agency, the inspectors general, said they’d also curtailed their activities.

Likewise the Congressional Budget Office, which is the government’s official scorekeeper, said it had to furlough staff and was reducing its workload to just 10 percent — just those analysts who were working on bills that are actively being considered by Congress right now.

And those seeking information under sunshine laws received messages that agencies weren’t processing them, since Freedom of Information Act officers were being furloughed as nonessential employees.

Fresh on the heels of the budget sequesters, which led to furloughs in many federal agencies, this week’s government shutdown enraged labor unions that represent government employees.

“They have mortgages and rent to pay,” said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. “They have tuition to pay. They are caring for their elderly parents as well as their children. They are middle America and they live from paycheck to paycheck.”

The unions called for an end to the shutdown, which began Tuesday morning, and also demanded that once the shutdown ends, Congress pass legislation making sure that those employees who didn’t work still get paid for the missed time.

“Today, government employees want to be on the job,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). “We want to go to work. We don’t want to be at home. We want to service you.”

Rudy D’Alessandro, of the National Park Service, said that the nation is losing out on $30 million a day because the national parks have been shuttered. He said all government employees should be sent back to work and bristled at a House GOP plan that would specifically reopen national parks, along with federal museums, while not dealing with the rest of the agencies that have been shut down.

“We don’t want to go back to work before the rest of our government agencies are also allowed to go back to work,” Mr. D’Alessandro said. “Send us back to work, so we can continue to serve the public, serve the people and save the Earth.”

The furloughs have left many federal buildings empty, and the lack of workers is even hurting the Washington region’s blood supply.

Inova Blood Donor Services said that the shutdown forced them to cancel four federal agency blood drives that cost an estimated 300 voluntary donors. Their donations would have served 900 patients.

“There is no substitute for blood, it can only come from a volunteer blood donor, and if those donors are not at their place of work we cannot collect those units,” said Rebecca Manarchuck, marketing director for Inova blood donor service.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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