RI congressmen keeping staff on if shutdown comes


Rhode Island Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline will not furlough any members of their staffs if the federal government shuts down, although it’s not clear whether they’ll be paid for the work, their offices said Friday. Meanwhile, Langevin and the state’s two senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, promised to forego a salary during any shutdown.

Spokespeople for Langevin and Cicilline, both Democrats, said it’s important to keep their offices running in the event of a shutdown, which will happen at midnight if no deal is reached in Washington on a spending plan.

“It’s confusing, and we know that constituents are concerned,” Cicilline spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said. “We’ll be here to answer questions.”

Whitehouse’s office said that in the event of a shutdown, a majority of his staffers would be furloughed, although spokesman Matt Thornton said details were still being determined Friday afternoon. Reed spokesman Chip Unruh also said most of the senator’s staff would be furloughed, but that Reed would continue working.

During the last federal government shutdown in 1995, the state’s two representatives at the time, Reed and Patrick Kennedy, furloughed about half their staffs, as did Sen. Claiborne Pell. Sen. John Chafee furloughed five of his 32 staffers, according a report at that time in The Providence Journal-Bulletin.

Langevin spokesman Jonathon Dworkin said his constituent services office would be staffed and fully operating during normal hours if a shutdown happens because Langevin believed it was particularly important to be there when constituents may have trouble finding assistance at federal agencies.

“He and his staff will be on duty to answer questions and help Rhode Islanders navigate the shutdown,” Dworkin said.

Langevin has a staff of 18, while Cicilline’s staff numbers 16.

Kershaw said Cicilline had been told that he could determine which of his staffers were “non-essential” and which were “essential,” meaning they should work through a potential shutdown. He determined they all were essential.

The staffers would not get paychecks during a shutdown.

“Regardless of whether people come into work, there are no assurances that any staff will be paid, including retroactively,” Reed spokesman Chip Unruh said.

Reed did not take a salary during the 1995 shutdown and plans to do the same this time around, Unruh said. Whitehouse and Langevin have also signed a pledge to either give back any salary they earn during a shutdown to the U.S. Treasury or give it to charity. Cicilline has said lawmakers should not be paid in the event of a shutdown.

The four members of the congressional delegation, all Democrats, have harshly criticized Republicans, blaming them for the looming shutdown.

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