GREENSBORO, N.C.-- More than 350,000 federal employees are still furloughed across the country-- sent home without pay. Only workers deemed "essential" are allowed to continue working. But who makes the essential list depends on who you talk to. In Congressional offices, it's the elected leader who decides who goes home.
2 Wants To Know polled North Carolina's 15 member delegation.
After multiple requests, six shared information about how many workers they've furloughed.
At Senator Kay Hagan's Greensboro's office, the mail is piling up next to a sign reading: "Due to the government shutdown, our offices are temporarily closed." An aid tells 2 Wants To Know Hagan furloughed 36 workers. That's 80 percent of her staff across North Carolina and D.C.
Senator Richard Burr's website says he's closed offices too. Each of his five North Carolina offices are locked up. The D.C. office is open, but operating at, "very limited capacity to end the shutdown."
We already shared the responses of senators Hagan and Burr. Representative Virginia Fox had originally furloughed the majority of her staff. But they've slowly started returning work. Representatives Mel Watt and Robert Pittenger have not furloughed anyone. And Representative Howard Coble only furloughed employees planning to take vacation anyway.
UNCG Political Science professor David Holian says there are probably logical reasons for how many employees each politician can can keep on, but:
"There's an element of politics in everything politicians do," he said.
Holian believes they may also be sending a message about how they see their job. Those with limited staff are focusing just on resolving the shutdown. But if they kept the doors open?
"Members may also feel that their job is more than just showing up and voting. It's helping constituents," he said.
That takes more people. Representative Pittenger's spokesperson Jamie Bowers explained with many federal offices closed, he knows: "his constituents needed somewhere to turn for information."
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