Government shutdown, Congress locks down -- Gazette.Net



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Reports of gunshots put the U.S. Capitol on lockdown Thursday afternoon, just days after lawmakers failed to reach a budget compromise, shutting down the federal government.

Federal workers across the region and nation remained off work Thursday as the shutdown stretched into its third day.

But at a time when Americans expected their congressional leaders to be working to end the shutdown, many sheltered at the Capitol as police investigated a bizarre incident of a woman who tried to ram her car onto the White House grounds and then sped to the U.S. Capitol. There, she was shot.

Among those hunkered down were U.S. Rep. John K. Delaney. Delaney said Tuesday his staff would continue to work through the shutdown.

On Thursday, a representative in the office said everyone was accounted for and doing OK.

Delaney (D-Dist. 6) of Potomac tweeted a little before 3 p.m. that he was in his office sheltering with his staff in the Longworth building.

In Montgomery County, home to thousands of federal jobs and employees, estimates on the local impact of the shutdown increased Thursday.

A report by Montgomery County’s Finance Department estimated each day of the shutdown could cost the county $760,000 in lost income tax revenue, up $260,000 from initial projections.

That does not factor in losses from other fees and taxes, or income lost by federal contractors and the businesses that serve the Federal government and its employees, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said in a statement Thursday.

Should the federal government not repay employees furloughed by the shutdown, it will affect actual county income tax revenue, he said.

Montgomery already had reduced its projected income tax revenue $60 million in fiscal 2014, in anticipation of deeper cuts from federal budget cuts, he said Tuesday. Whether $60 million is enough cushion, Leggett said remains to be seen.

Exactly how many Montgomery County residents have been forced to stay home during the shutdown is still unclear, but most agencies have slashed operations and issued mass furloughs. Employees who are furloughed are required to not work and will not receive pay.

The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda have kept only 4,948 of 18,646 employees working during the shutdown, according to a statement provided Thursday by spokeswoman Renate Myles.

NIH has also deferred new medical studies, affecting many patients including children with cancer.

About 200 new patients per week will have to wait for admission to the clinical center during the shutdown, of which about 30 are children. About one-third of those children have cancer, according to NIH.

The House of Representatives passed an abbreviated plan Wednesday night that, among a few select agencies, would keep NIH open.

On the House floor Wednesday, Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington opposed efforts to cherry-pick pieces of the government to reopen, advocating instead for the “clean” resolution passed by the Senate that would reopen all agencies.

In his speech, Van Hollen used NIH to make his point, saying he has heard from scientists there who say they are “not fooled by this cynical ploy on the House today.”

Eighteen federal agencies and installations are housed in Montgomery, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Institutes of Health.

In 2011, federal jobs totaled 46,020 in Montgomery, according to county data. The U.S. Department of Labor estimated the number of federal jobs in both Montgomery and Frederick counties at 51,400 in August 2013.

Many county residents work in federal jobs in Washington or Northern Virginia. Of the county’s 971,771 residents recorded in the 2010 U.S. Census, 72,492 worked for the federal government.

Montgomery is also home to many companies that contract with the government. Those companies could see employees furloughed and delays in contract bids and awards.

The last time the government shut down in 1996, employees were eventually repaid for the closure. Whether employees will get back pay this time is up to Congress, said Jennifer Huergo, spokeswoman for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

During the 1996 shutdown, which lasted three weeks, contractors were not reimbursed.

Some contracts awarded by federal agencies have specified that awardees have the ability to find private funding for those projects.

Not all government operations ground to a halt Tuesday.

Among the agencies with money to remain open for at least a few days was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, based in Rockville.

The commission had enough unspent funds from the previous year’s budget, which ended Monday, to keep it open and operating for one week, spokeswoman Holly Harrington said.

Should the government remain unfunded for longer, the commission faces taking about 90 percent, or all but 300 of its 4,000 total employees off the job. Most NRC employees, about 3,000, work in Rockville, Harrington said.



Staff Writer Kevin James Shay contributed to this report.



kalexander@gazette.net