WASHINGTON -- More than 1,000 prospective job seekers may be out of luck next week if Congress is unable to come to a budget agreement. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) had been planning to host a job fair in Delaware on Monday, but says that if the government shuts down, it may be off.
Coons and his staff have been planning the job fair since January, which is scheduled to be held at the state's largest public meeting venue in Wilmington. When former Delaware senator Ted Kaufman held a similar event last year, his office expected about 300 job-seekers to show up but more than 1,100 came.
This year, around 50 employers are planning to attend, including a dozen recruiters from federal agencies who would most likely not attend if the government shuts down.
The larger problem, however, is that Senate staff are needed to work at the event. Coons' office estimates that they will need approximately 17 aides. But if there's a shutdown, only Hill staffers deemed "essential" to keeping the government operational would be allowed to keep working. Coons said that he has consulted the House Rules Committee, Ethics Committee, and Office of Legal Counsel, and the consensus seems to be that holding a job fair in Delaware would not be considered part of these duties.
"The staff that are essential to legislating, even in a furlough or shutdown, can still come in," explained Coons to The Huffington Post. "But delivering direct constituent service in my home state is not deemed essential to my service as a senator because it is not legislating. And I can't have my legislative staff come in and then go to Delaware and help pull off the job fair. At least that's my current understanding."
Coons would personally still be able to attend the job fair. He said that he and his staff are working hard to keep the event on by looking for other people to work at the job fair, including people in the governor's office and volunteers. His furloughed Senate aides, however, would not be able to volunteer at the event.
"I think this just throws into relief the larger issue here, which is that the budget fight between the House Republicans and the Senate long ago stopped being about job-creating," said Coons. "When they came in, they said they were going to focus, focus, focus on jobs, jobs, jobs. And in my view, they are relentlessly pushing us toward a government shutdown they are seeking, because they refuse to bend or meet us halfway, or even three-quarters of the way."
"And the idea that this government shutdown might prevent me and my staff from doing this most basic and important thing for the people of my state, I think is just outrageous," he added.