Local lawmakers furlough staff amid shutdown
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WASHINGTON -- The partial federal government shutdown that began Tuesday rippled through the offices of New York's congressional delegation, resulting in many furloughed staff members and some closed state offices.
The failure of Congress to fund government operations for the new fiscal year that began Tuesday meant that, while members of Congress will continue to be paid their $174,000-a-year salaries, their staff won't get their paychecks.
Sen. Charles Schumer, New York's senior senator and member of the Senate Democratic leadership, said he would not accept a paycheck during the shutdown, a position taken by few New York lawmakers.
"I'm going to be in the same boat as my staff. If they're not getting a paycheck, neither will I," Schumer said.
Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) sent most of their staff members home and shut their state offices.
"Due to this government shutdown, we are sorry to inform you that Senator Schumer's office will no longer be able to perform nonessential functions," said a statement on Schumer's website.
The senators have about 65 staff members each at a cost of about $3.4 million a year. Aides said Schumer furloughed three quarters of his staff and Gillibrand four-fifths of hers.
House members representing Long Island kept their offices open to help constituents navigate closed and open services. The lawmakers have 15 to 20 staffers at a cost of $800,000 to $1 million a year.
Reps. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Steve Israel (D-Huntington) posted lists showing the status of key federal government operations.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) kept his office open, but he furloughed four staff members.
Gillibrand, Bishop, Israel and King declined to skip their pay in solidarity with their staff.
The Constitution guarantees lawmakers' pay, and lawmakers can change it only for members in a future session of Congress.
"Gillibrand believes it is fundamentally unfair that members are being paid and staff and Capitol police and government workers aren't," said spokeswoman Bethany Lesser, adding the senator would work to ensure furloughed workers wouldn't miss a paycheck.
Asked whether he will accept his paycheck, King said, "I'm taking mine. I'm fighting to keep the government open."