Essential and Nonessential

SUBHEAD:Nuclear Regulatory Commission closing operations while Congressional Gym stays open.

By Amanda Terkel on 9 October 2013 for Huffington Post -

Image above: From Rep. Paul Ryan working out. From original article.

Around the country, furloughed federal workers are wondering how they're going to pay their bills while they wait for the government to reopen. Businesses that rely on tourists are taking a hit due to shuttered national parks. And scientists conducting groundbreaking research have had to put the brakes on their work.

Meanwhile, members of Congress continue to pump iron in their exclusive gym, ride on special trolleys so that they don't have to walk a few extra feet and in some cases, protect their entire staff from the furloughs faced by other federal workers. Here's a look at the maddeningly arbitrary nature of the government shutdown, and at what has been declared "essential" and "nonessential":

ESSENTIAL: The gym for members of the House of Representatives.
The House gym reserved exclusively for lawmakers remains open during the shutdown. It features a swimming pool, basketball courts, a sauna and steam room. "This job is very stressful and if you don't have a place to vent, you are going to go crazy and that's why I've used it all these years,” said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who has been a user since 1973. While there's no towel service available during these tough times, taxpayers are still paying for maintenance and cleaning. The House gym for staff members, however, is closed.

NONESSENTIAL: Clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health.
Each week, about 200 people go to NIH hoping to receive new treatment in clinical trials. But with 75 percent of the NIH staff furloughed, the agency is not accepting new patients until the government reopens.

ESSENTIAL: Every single member of Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) staff.
King, like a handful of other lawmakers, has not yet furloughed anyone in his office -- even though members of Congress are supposed to only keep on staffers who are essential to legislating. King has justified his lack of sacrifice by saying that his staff is "picking up the slack" for members who have furloughed their aides.

NONESSENTIAL: A Nobel Prize-winning physicist.
In 2012, David Wineland, a physicist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems." But Wineland has been deemed nonessential and is furloughed due to the government shutdown.

ESSENTIAL: The Capitol subway system.
It's a relatively short walk from the House and Senate office buildings to the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers and their staff members don't even have to walk outside to get from point A to point B; they can go through underground tunnels and stay sheltered from the elements. And for folks who feel like relaxing, there's a special little subway car -- a few of them even have drivers -- to get them there in a ride that takes about 30 seconds. The trains remain staffed and functioning during the shutdown.

NONESSENTIAL: Cleaning up toxic waste sites.
 Ninety-four percent of the Environmental Protection Agency's employees have been furloughed during the government shutdown. These nonessential employees include staffers who oversee projects like Superfund cleanup sites. The EPA has suspended cleanup at 505 toxic waste sites in 47 states.

ESSENTIAL: Every single member of Congress.
The salaries of lawmakers, like the president, come from a pool of mandatory funds and aren't affected by the government shutdown. So whether the government is open or not, they still get paid.

NONESSENTIAL: The NASA employee who oversees the Mars rover mission.
David Lavery, a program executive for solar system exploration at NASA, shepherded the development and launch of the Curiosity rover. Last week, he and eight other exceptional public servants won a prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal presented by the Partnership for Public Service. But four of them, including Lavery, are considered nonessential and currently furloughed .

NRC closing down operations

By Mark Satorius Exec Dir Operations NRC on 4 October 2013 -
As you may know, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been operating largely normally this week using “carryover” funds in the absence of an appropriation. Based on our current projections, however, we do not believe the agency can continue to operate beyond the middle of next week.

In the absence of action by Congress and the President, we expect to begin notifying employees whether they are excepted (non-furloughed) or non-excepted (furloughed). Most of the excepted employees are the resident inspectors and the Headquarters Operations Officers. Individuals assigned as excepted employees will perform the excepted functions listed in Management Directive and Handbook 4.5 if the agency shuts down.

Meetings scheduled for next week are in the process of being cancelled or postponed. We apologize for the inconvenience we know this is causing. For the most up-to-date details, please see our Public Meetings page.

It is possible that circumstances will require additional NRC employees to perform excepted functions, for example, in an emergency event requiring NRC response. If that situation arises, additional NRC employees who are required to perform excepted functions will be contacted, designated as excepted and removed from furlough status.

It is illegal for employees who are furloughed to perform agency work. So once the NRC begins furloughs, most employees will not be coming to the office, taking work phone calls, or reading or responding to email messages. The Office of Public Affairs and the Office of Congressional Affairs will have skeleton staffs on hand to respond as appropriate to inquiries.

A limited Allegations staff will also be on hand to evaluate allegations and address those with immediate safety or security ramifications. As Presidential appointees, Chairman Macfarlane and the four Commissioners will not be furloughed and will continue to perform their responsibilities.

The NRC is also reviewing its contractors to determine which ones will receive “stop work orders” during a furlough.

While the NRC website will remain up, it may not be updated once a furlough has started. We will use the blog to provide up-to-date information about NRC actions.

We sincerely regret these actions are necessary and are eager to resume our important mission as soon as possible.

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