Senate would furlough hundreds

The Senate will furlough hundreds of employees and close dozens of Capitol services in the event of a government shutdown.

All but one Senate gallery will be closed, as well as all but one Senate appointment desk. There will be no elevator operators, the barber and beauty shops will be shuttered, and the Senate’s employee assistance program will be closed except in the case of emergency.

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The Capitol Visitors Center will also be closed, and no tours of the building will be offered. Senate parking lots will be closed, and dining areas will either be closed or see their services reduced.

According to Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer, his office will reduce from 970 employees to 240 employees deemed essential to the legislative process.

A skeleton crew of information technology workers will be kept on staff because of security implications and protection from hackers.  A small Capitol cleanup crew will also remain.

The Senate Sergeant at Arms was also given permission by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to close all but one entrance to each Congressional building.

According to Gainer, furloughs will also extend to the Capitol Police Department. An estimated 50 to 70 officers will be sent home, to the tune of $600,000 to $700,000 saved per week.

Much of those savings will be seen in cutbacks on police overtime, which will be virtually eliminated, said Gainer. The Capitol Police civilian staff of 380 will also be nearly cut in half. Those civilian employees performing operational duties such as communications or dealing with hazardous materials will remain.

“This has a significant impact,” said Gainer of the looming shutdown.

“I was just over with [Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)], chairman of the Senate Legislative Appropriations Committee, and he emphasized that our office, the Senate staff, are not immune from this,” Gainer added. “There is a consequence to shutting down.”