Shutdown Comes and Goes Quickly

OPM has said that federal employees should report for work as scheduled Friday after President Trump signed a measure at about 9 am Eastern time ending a brief-lived partial government shutdown.

A bill to restore funding authority for federal agencies was not passed until after the midnight Thursday deadline, largely due to objections by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., about the measure’s increase in spending limits over a previous agreement. The measure adds about $300 billion to spending authority over the next two years, the slight majority of it on the defense side versus the non-defense side. The measure also contains added funds for a variety of agencies for disaster relief efforts.

Paul and other Republican fiscal conservatives had objected to those increases while Democrats had also contributed to the delay by advocating for a prompt vote on policies for immigrant “dreamers.”

Shortly after Trump signed the measure, OPM sent a notice to agencies saying that “employees are expected to return for work, absent other instructions from their employing agencies. Due to the enactment of a continuing resolution, federal government operations are open. Agencies are strongly encouraged to use all available workplace flexibilities to ensure a smooth transition back to work for employees (e.g. telework, work schedule flexibilities, and excused absence for hardship situations).”

That replaced directives issued only hours earlier in which OMB told agencies to start shutdown activities and OPM said that employees “should refer to their home agency for guidance on reporting for duty.” In most cases, even employees who would be subject to a furlough in a funding lapse are to report for work on the first day, typically for several hours, in any event. The brevity of the partial shutdown likely means that there will be no complications regarding employee pay.

The measure generally extends agency funding authority through March 23. During that time, congressional leaders hope to craft one or more spending bills covering the remainder of the fiscal year that is now more than a third gone. The House last year passed appropriations bills for all agencies although the Senate made only limited progress before the budget process bogged down last fall, resulting in a series of temporary funding measures and two partial shutdowns—one three days, the other only a matter of hours.

The new measure does not order reductions in programs such as federal employee retirement and health insurance; federal employee organizations had been concerned that such a requirement would be imposed as an offset against the spending increases.