With a potential federal government shutdown only days away, D.C. officials are preparing to defy Congress and keep the D.C. government's 32,000 employees on the job.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Thursday that he plans on introducing legislation next Tuesday that would declare that legislative and executive branch employees are "essential" and should remain on the job during any government shutdown. The bill would also allow them to paid from the city's contingency cash reserve fund.
“Currently, the District is unfairly tethered to the federal appropriations process, meaning important local government services are placed in jeopardy by unrelated national budget squabbles,” Mendelson said in a statement. “An orderly society cannot function without government, as residents and businesses depend on government services. Government, therefore, is ‘essential.’”
On Wednesday Mayor Vincent Gray wrote in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget that all of the city's employees are "essential" and should be allowed to work through a federal government shutdown; unlike state and municipal governments, D.C. is tied to the federal appropriations process, leaving it at risk of shutdown if a federal budget isn't agreed to by Tuesday.
D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan has quietly advised against trying to keep D.C. employees on the job, saying that doing so could put city officials at risk of violating federal law.