Feds close because of snow; Capitol Hill soldiers on

Despite the record snowfall forcing a closure of the federal government Monday, the Senate will stay in session in its push for healthcare reform.

In a statement posted on its website Sunday, the Office of Personnel Management said all federal agencies will be closed on Monday. Non-emergency employees will be granted excused absence from work because of the more than 16 inches of snow that have blanketed the Washington, D.C., metro area, slowing down traffic and public transportation to the capital.

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But in Congress, it is a decision for each individual lawmaker’s office on whether or not they will stay open when confronted with extreme weather. Considering the short timeline to pass the Senate healthcare reform bill before Christmas, the Senate will remain in session Monday as originally planned. Aides in offices for both Democratic and Republican Senate leaders confirmed the chamber is not shutting down Monday like the rest of the federal government.

“It is an office by office decision. Our policy is that we are always open, but staff should only come in if they can do so safely,” said Regan Lachapelle, deputy communications director for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

A GOP leadership aide agreed with Reid’s office on Congress’s closure policy and said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office will remain open as well. He joked though that Reid could earn some good will, though, by reconvening the Senate a day later on Tuesday.
 
“If he wants to close it down, there will be a ton of staffers and reporters who will be grateful,” the aide said.

The Senate is expected to have its first cloture vote on its healthcare reform bill at 1 a.m. Monday. That will kick off a series of votes over the next week with the final vote expected on Christmas Eve.

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