WASHINGTON – Reaction among some federal workers ranged from anger and disgust to resignation as more than 300,000 Washington- area employees were sent home Tuesday morning in the first partial government shutdown in five years.
“It seems stupid to make people come when they have a one- hour commute,” said Deborah Stroessner, who works in the public information office of the Federal Highway Administration.
Stroessner was not among those sent home, but she said she had to use vacation time to drive carpool members home early to the Columbia, Md., area.
The shutdown was prompted after President Clinton and Congress could not agree Monday night on cuts in a stopgap funding bill needed to keep the government running.
“It’s stressful,” said Lisa Pompell, of Burke, Va., a secretary in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation. She was instructed to stay at work to answer the telephones, she said.
What Pompell said concerned her is that she may not get paid for the time off. “There are only three pay days until Christmas,” she said.
Pompell, a single mother, said she’d like to pay a visit to Congress. “I’d like to hand them my bills. `Which one of you boys would like to pay my bills?’ I’d just like to shake them,” she said.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole of Kansas, in a Nov. 10 letter to Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, said they are committed to restoring lost wages.
Joseph O’Neill, a legal counsel in the inspector general’s office at the Department of Transportation, took the situation in stride. “It’s just politics. It’s D.C. It’s the name of the game,” he said, as he was heading to his home in Alexandria.
On Tuesday afternoon, congressional Republicans and President Clinton were still in disagreement over how to make the budget cuts, said Ed Gillespie, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas.
About 800,000 federal employees were furloughed nationwide, said Mary Ann Maloney, a spokeswoman for the Office of Personnel Management.
An additional 1.2 million federal employees were not sent home, Maloney said. They include those whose work includes the protection of lives and property, such as those who are employed in veterans’ hospitals and air traffic controllers and food inspectors.
The last federal government shutdown occurred in October 1990, but it was during the Columbus Day weekend and did not require federal employees to be sent home.
The American Federation of Government Employees has gone to U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the government from forcing employees to work without pay, a union statement said.
“We’re telling our members not to go home, to go to Capitol Hill and talk to their representatives and tell them they are sick of being treated this way,” said union spokeswoman Diane Witiak. -30-