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Senate Democrats Close D.C. Offices During Shutdown While Republicans' Stay Open

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WASHINGTON -- Congressional offices, like federal agencies, are supposed to furlough all nonessential staff during the government shutdown. But the interpretation of this directive has varied wildly in the Senate, with some lawmakers closing all their offices and others refusing to furlough a single person, a discrepancy Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is calling unfair.

According to a tally by The Huffington Post, 36 Democratic senators have closed their Washington, D.C., offices, while 18 kept them open. Only seven Republican Senate offices are closed, meanwhile, while 39 are still open.

The count is based on lawmakers' responses to The Huffington Post or other media outlets, as well as whether their offices appeared to be open with someone at the front desk during a Monday morning visit to Capitol Hill.

Just because offices remain open doesn't mean that staff members are escaping unscathed. Many senators have furloughed the vast majority of their staff or closed state offices, but are choosing to keep their D.C. offices open in order to respond to constituent calls and visits.

Don Canton, spokesman for Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), said that although 24 of his colleagues are furloughed, "we are keeping our front office open for walk-ins and we are doing our best to manage constituent issues."

"Members of Congress are allowed to delegate a number of their staff as essential to work during the shutdown -- Senator Johnson chose to make sure his staff is available to attend to his constitutional duties and respond to his constituents during this time," said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) spokeswoman Melinda Whitemarsh Schnell, in explaining that Johnson has decided to keep his office open with limited staff.

But some offices aren't feeling any pain at all. Currently, at least 10 senators have their entire staff working: Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.).

Chambliss originally furloughed most of his staff members, but he brought them all back this week, according to his spokesperson.

Boozman argued to Politico that his staff was more essential than ever during the shutdown.

"We're in a situation where our constituents need us more than ever," he said. "We're getting calls from people who are very concerned about their Social Security checks all of the ancillary stuff that is going on out there."

According to a Sept. 24 memo from the Office of Senate Chief Counsel for Employment, the Senate should "continue its constitutional responsibilities, such as legislating and conducting committee hearings, during a lapse in appropriations."

"Senate employees who must directly participate in or provide necessary support for those constitutional functions that take place during the government shutdown are permitted to continue that work during any funding lapse," concluded the memo.

But in a floor speech on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said senators who were keeping their offices open were just "showing off."

"Now some members of Congress are kind of showing off and saying, 'I'm not closing my office,'" Reid said. "Madam President, I've closed my offices, because I don't think my employees should be treated any different than someone who's working for the Bureau of Land Management or the FBI. They're home."

View the status of Senate offices below:

ALABAMA

  • Jeff Sessions (R): Nearly the entire staff has been furloughed. Sessions' Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.
  • Richard Shelby (R): Approximately 75 percent of the staff has been furloughed, and the Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.

ALASKA

  • Mark Begich (D): About 80 percent of the staff is furloughed, although someone is monitoring messages from constituents in case of emergency. "Sen. Begich does not believe that he or his staff should be exempt from the impacts of this government shutdown -- especially as some 7k Alaskans don't know when they will get back to work," said a spokesperson. "That's why he has also cosponsored the No Budget No Pay bill." His Washington, D.C., office appeared closed Monday morning.
  • Lisa Murkowski (R): Murkowski's office did not return a request for comment, although her Washington, D.C., office appeared open on Monday morning.

ARIZONA

  • Jeff Flake (R): Flake's office did not return a request for comment, and the main phone number for his Washington, D.C., office went to voicemail. His office appeared closed Monday morning.
  • John McCain (R): Roughly half of McCain's staff has been furloughed. The door to his Washington, D.C., office appeared closed on Monday morning.

ARKANSAS

  • John Boozman (R): Boozman has not furloughed anyone. "We're in a situation where our constituents need us more than ever," Boozman told Politico. "We're getting calls from people who are very concerned about their Social Security checks all of the ancillary stuff that is going on out there."
  • Mark Pryor (D): Pryor's office did not return a request for comment, but his Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.

CALIFORNIA

  • Barbara Boxer (D): All six of Boxer's California offices are closed, while the Washington, D.C., office is open by appointment only, and only on matters regarding legislation. (There is a sign on the door that says it is closed.) Two-thirds of the staff is furloughed. Staffers are trying to answer phones in the D.C. office, but their efforts are limited due to the furloughs. All constituent services are shut down.
  • Dianne Feinstein (D): All state offices are closed, and the front desk in the Washington, D.C., office is closed. There is one person answering phones, and the vast majority of staff members are furloughed.

COLORADO

  • Michael Bennet (D): About 75 percent of the staff is furloughed. Most offices are closed, with some operating with a skeleton crew. Phone messages are being forwarded, and they've set up an emergency line and email address for constituents. The Washington, D.C., office has a closed sign on the door.
  • Mark Udall (D): Udall has not furloughed anyone. "Our offices are still open, but we are focusing on flood/disaster recovery and working to get the federal government back reopened," said spokesman Mark Saccone.

CONNECTICUT

  • Richard Blumenthal (D): The staff is rotating. Out of the office's 51 staff members, there were about 18 working on any given day. The Washington, D.C., office remains open.
  • Chris Murphy (D): Approximately two-thirds of the staff have been furloughed, although the phones remain on. The Washington, D.C., office is closed.

DELAWARE

  • Tom Carper (D): Carper's offices are closed, and calls are going to voicemail. One staff member is checking messages and responding to emergencies, but the vast majority of constituent services are suspended. There are generally about seven staffers left in the D.C. office and one in Dover. There are 15 staffers, two fellows and five interns furloughed from D.C., and 16 staffers in the state office.
  • Chris Coons (D): The senator's state offices are closed, and the phones there are being redirected to the Washington, D.C., office, which is open. All told, 14 staffers are still working and 24 have been furloughed.

FLORIDA

  • Marco Rubio (R): Fifty of Rubio's 57 staffers have been furloughed, but three will be coming back to work next week to help people in Florida who have been affected by Tropical Storm Karen. His office appeared open Monday morning.
  • Bill Nelson (D): About 60 of the senator's 70 staffers have been furloughed, and the Washington, D.C., office is closed.

GEORGIA

  • Saxby Chambliss (R): Chambliss initially furloughed all of his staff except four people, but this week, everyone is back at work.
  • Johnny Isakson (R): Isakson did not return a request for comment, but his office in Washington, D.C., appeared open Monday morning.

HAWAII

  • Mazie Hirono (D): Hirono has just six staffers working, with other legislative staffers rotating in as needed. There is a sign on the door of her Washington, D.C., office saying it is closed.
  • Brian Schatz (D): Approximately 70 percent of Schatz's staff has been furloughed, and the Washington, D.C., office is closed. They are not answering the phones, except when the senator jumps in and picks them up.

IDAHO

  • Mike Crapo (R): The Boise and Washington, D.C., offices remain open with limited staff, while the rest of the state offices are closed. Staff are operating on a rotating furlough schedule.
  • James Risch (R): Risch's office did not return a request for comment, and his Washington, D.C., office has a closed sign on the door.

ILLINOIS

  • Dick Durbin (D): The senator has furloughed 80 percent of his staff (64 people). The offices in Chicago, Springfield, Rock Island and Carbondale are closed. Staff members in Washington, D.C., are taking shifts answering the phones, but the office is closed for meetings.
  • Mark Kirk (R): Kirk has not furloughed anyone. He told Politico that he needed his entire staff to attend to the World War II veterans coming to Washington, D.C., during the shutdown. An aide later qualified that the staffers were not all devoted to the World War II veterans.

INDIANA

  • Dan Coats (R): Approximately half the senator's staff has been furloughed, but the Washington, D.C., office is open.
  • Joe Donnelly (D): More than half the senator's staff has been furloughed, and his Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.

IOWA

  • Chuck Grassley (R): Grassley is working with 30 percent of his staff in his Washington, D.C., and Iowa offices. Four of his six state offices are closed, with calls routed elsewhere. "Incoming email and postal mail will be received and sorted to receive input from Iowans, though responses will be delayed," said the senator in a statement last week. "Policy staffers who are involved in the Senate floor debate will be on duty, and "hold meetings with Iowans and participate in the Judiciary Committee business that is scheduled to go on despite the shutdown."
  • Tom Harkin (D): The senator has closed all of his offices, with only a small number of staff still working.

KANSAS

  • Jerry Moran (R): Moran's office did not return a request for comment, although his Washington, D.C., office appeared open on Monday morning.
  • Pat Roberts (R): Roberts' office did not return a request for comment, but his Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.

KENTUCKY

  • Mitch McConnell (R): McConnell is operating with a reduced staff, but his offices remain open.
  • Rand Paul (R): Paul's office did not return a request for comment, and his Washington, D.C., office is closed.

LOUISIANA

  • Mary Landrieu (D): Landrieu said on the Senate floor on Friday that her office has been "closed but functioning with a small staff."
  • David Vitter (R): Vitter's office did not return a request for comment, but his Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.

MAINE

  • Susan Collins (R): Collins' office did not return a request for comment, but her Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.
  • Angus King (I): King did not return a request for comment, but his Washington, D.C., office appeared closed Monday morning.

MARYLAND

  • Ben Cardin (D): The D.C. office is closed, and two-thirds of the staff are furloughed.
  • Barbara Mikulski (D): Mikulski's office did not return a request for comment. Her Washington, D.C., office has a closed sign on the door, and calls to the main line are greeted with a prerecorded message.

MASSACHUSETTS

  • Ed Markey (D): Markey has furloughed staff in his Boston and Washington, D.C., offices, which remain open; his offices in Fall River and Springfield are closed. He has also delayed plans to hire new staff.
  • Elizabeth Warren (D): Most of Warren's staff has been furloughed, but they are still answering phones and the Washington, D.C., office is open.

MICHIGAN

  • Carl Levin (D): Levin has not furloughed anyone. He also kept his whole staff in place during the shutdowns of 1995 and 1996.
  • Debbie Stabenow (D): The Washington, D.C., office is closed, with a sign on the door, and there are only a few staff members working.

MINNESOTA

  • Al Franken (D): The senator's Washington, D.C., office is open, but the state ones are closed. Thirty-one people have been furloughed.
  • Amy Klobuchar (D): Klobuchar's office remains open, and 27 staff members are furloughed.

MISSISSIPPI

  • Thad Cochran (R): Of the approximately 30 full-time staffers in Cochan's Washington, D.C., and Mississippi offices, about half are furloughed on any given day, including the interns. Furloughs are being rotated amongst the staff. The senator has continued conducting business as he normally would, and has so far not canceled any scheduled meetings. His Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.
  • Roger Wicker (R): Wicker's office did not return a request for comment, but his Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.

MISSOURI

  • Roy Blunt (R): Blunt has not furloughed anyone. "Senator Blunt believes each function of his office originates in the Constitution, so all staff is essential," his spokeswoman, Amber Marchand, told Politico.
  • Claire McCaskill (D): Forty-five out of 50 McCaskill staffers have been furloughed, and her Washington, D.C., office has a sign on the door saying it is closed.

MONTANA

  • Max Baucus (D): The senator furloughed everyone not involved in drafting legislation, and the main line in the Washington, D.C., office was closed Monday morning.
  • Jon Tester (D): All of the senator's nine offices are closed. Nine staff members are still working, while 28 are furloughed.

NEBRASKA

  • Deb Fischer (R): Fischer's office did not return a request for comment, but her Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.
  • Mike Johanns (R): Johanns is operating with a limited staff, and his office appeared open on Monday morning.

NEVADA

  • Dean Heller (R): Two-thirds of the senator's staff members are furloughed, although his offices remain open. The senator has also been taking shifts answering the phones.
  • Harry Reid (D): Reid has furloughed about 50 percent of his staff in Washington, D.C. In Nevada, all but two of his aides are furloughed. His Washington, D.C., office is closed.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

  • Kelly Ayotte (R): Ayotte has reduced her 38-member staff to a "handful of essential staffers." The entire press team is among those furloughed, but her Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.
  • Jeanne Shaheen (D): Two-thirds of Shaheen's staff has been furloughed. All the state offices are closed, but the one in Washington, D.C., is open.

NEW JERSEY

  • Jeff Chiesa (R): Chiesa's office did not return a request for comment, but his Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.
  • Bob Menendez (D): About two-thirds of Menendez's staff is furloughed, and the Washington, D.C., office appeared open on Monday morning.

NEW MEXICO

  • Martin Heinrich (D): Thirty-one of the senator's 44 staffers are furloughed, and the Washington, D.C., office is closed.
  • Tom Udall (D): Udall's office did not return a request for comment, and his Washington, D.C., office is closed with a sign on the door.

NEW YORK

  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D): The senator's offices are closed, and more than 80 percent of employees have been furloughed.
  • Chuck Schumer (D): Approximately 75 percent of Schumer's staff has been furloughed, and his Washington, D.C., office is closed.

NORTH CAROLINA

  • Richard Burr (R): Burr's staff did not return a request for comment on its operations, but calls to the main line in the D.C. office go to a prerecorded message saying the office is open for essential and emergency operations.
  • Kay Hagan (D): The senator's office did not return a request for comment, and a call to the main line in Washington, D.C., went to voicemail. Her office appeared closed Monday morning.

NORTH DAKOTA

  • Heidi Heitkamp (D): Heitkamp has a limited number of staff, with one person answering phones in Washington, D.C., and none in North Dakota. A sign on the door of her Washington, D.C., office says it is closed.
  • John Hoeven (R): Hoeven's office is still open, with seven people working and 24 furloughed.

OHIO

  • Sherrod Brown (D): Sixty percent of the staff is furloughed, and the Washington, D.C., office has a closed sign on the door.
  • Rob Portman (R): Slightly more than half of Portman's staff has been furloughed, but all his offices remain open. The senator also still had his constituent coffee, a weekly meeting with Ohioans in Washington, D.C.,

OKLAHOMA

  • Tom Coburn (R): Coburn has not furloughed anyone. "Dr. Coburn believes a government shutdown does not shut down his responsibility to respond to constituent concerns, complete opened casework and conduct rigorous oversight of the federal government," Coburn spokesman Aaron Forbes told the Oklahoman. "Therefore, Dr. Coburn has declared all of his staff essential employees at this time. If the shutdown continues, he will re-evaluate his assessment and make any appropriate adjustments."

OREGON

  • Jeff Merkley (D): Eighty-five percent of Merkley's staff is furloughed and all of his offices are closed. There is one person taking messages.
  • Ron Wyden (D): About half of Wyden's office has been furloughed, and his offices are closed.

PENNSYLVANIA

  • Robert Casey (D): There is a skeletal staff operating in D.C., as well as the state director and director of constituent services still working in Pennsylvania. Phones are not being answered, and the Washington, D.C., office has a sign on the door saying it is closed.
  • Pat Toomey (R): The senator's Washington, D.C., office remains open with six or seven staffers, and the Allentown office has two people working.

RHODE ISLAND

  • Jack Reed (D): A majority of Reed's staff "continues to work without pay," although his Washington, D.C., office is closed.
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D): Whitehouse's office did not return a request for comment, but his Washington, D.C., office was open Monday morning.

SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Lindsey Graham (R): The vast majority of the staff has been furloughed. The Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.
  • Tim Scott (R): Approximately 75 percent of the staff has been furloughed, but his offices remain open and phones are being answered.

SOUTH DAKOTA

  • John Thune (R): Thune has not furloughed anyone. "We were hopeful this would get resolved fairly quickly and it may not be now," Thune told Politico. "We're still trying to do our best to make sure that we are fulfilling our responsibilities to the people of South Dakota. If this thing gets sustained and is carried on for a long period of time, were evaluating that, obviously."

TENNESSEE

  • Lamar Alexander (R): Seventy-five percent of the staff is furloughed, but the door to the Washington, D.C., office is open and phones are being answered. "Senator Alexander's office has a greatly reduced level of staffing focused on supporting the Senate's current business and making sure that Tennesseans' constitutional right to petition their government is not impeded," said spokesman Jim Jeffries.
  • Bob Corker (R): Corker's office is closed except for a skeleton staff. The senator has 60 staffers, including his Foreign Relations Committee and state staff. Eighty percent of them are furloughed. "We know constituents have come to expect a high level of service and responsiveness from our office and regret they won't experience that while the furlough is in effect. Senator Corker worked hard to prevent this situation and will continue working hard to help resolve it," said Corker Chief of Staff Todd Womack.

TEXAS

  • John Cornyn (R): Cornyn has shut down five of his eight offices, and the majority of the staff are furloughed. His Washington, D.C., office appeared open Monday morning.
  • Ted Cruz (R): Sixty percent of the staff has been furloughed, and his Washington, D.C., office appeared closed Monday morning.

UTAH

  • Orrin Hatch (R): Hatch spokesman Matthew Harakal said, "It's our office policy not to discuss personnel matters." His Washington, D.C., office appeared open on Monday morning.
  • Mike Lee (R): Lee's office did not return a request for comment, and no one was at the front desk of his Washington, D.C., office on Monday morning.

VERMONT

  • Pat Leahy (D): Six of Leahy's 21 staffers are working, with the rest furloughed -- although they will be called in on a rotating basis for legislative and administrative support. His office appeared closed Monday morning.
  • Bernie Sanders (I): Twelve of Sanders' 30 staffers have been furloughed, and his Washington, D.C., office remains open.

VIRGINIA

  • Tim Kaine (D): Thirty-seven people are furloughed, and the Washington, D.C., office has a closed sign on the door.
  • Mark Warner (D): Warner's office is working with a skeleton staff -- just five people. They are logging and clearing voicemail, but the office in Washington, D.C., appeared closed Monday morning.

WASHINGTON

  • Maria Cantwell (D): The Washington, D.C., office is open and the front desk is being staffed by one person. But the office is not currently able to respond to calls. All state offices are closed, and the vast majority of the D.C. staff has been furloughed.
  • Patty Murray (D): More than 90 percent of Murray's staff has been furloughed, and her Washington, D.C., office is closed.

WEST VIRGINIA

  • Joe Manchin (D): The Washington, D.C., office remains open, but it is down from 27 staffers to 11. Fifteen of 17 West Virginia aides have been furloughed. They are still trying to answer phones, and the senator has even jumped in.
  • Jay Rockefeller (D): Rockefeller's office did not return a request for comment, but his Washington, D.C., office has a closed sign on the door.

WISCONSIN

  • Tammy Baldwin (D): The senator's offices in Washington, D.C., as well as Milwaukee and Madison, are working in a limited capacity and with limited staff.
  • Ron Johnson (R): Johnson's offices remain open, with limited staffers. One staff member is in Milwaukee, one in Oshkosh and a few in Washington, D.C.

WYOMING

  • John Barrasso (R): His office is open with limited staffing. More than half the staff was furloughed.
  • Mike Enzi (R): Fewer than one-third of Enzi's staffers -- six or seven people -- are still working on a rotating basis in his Washington, D.C., and state offices.

Farah Mohamed contributed reporting.

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