• Shutdown's political 'pingpong game' frustrates workers

    By: MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

    Updated:
    WASHINGTON (AP) - Some federal workers reacted to the government shutdown Monday with anger, some with worry and others were happy to have a day off, not unlike a student learning of a snow day.

    The shutdown effectively cleaved the federal workforce in half as hundreds of thousands of workers were sent home while others who were declared essential stayed on the job. While Congress appeared ready to reopen the government, the workers could find themselves in a similar situation in a few weeks because the spending deal is only short term.

    Some took in stride. Ali Niaz, a Department of Labor employee who was sent home after reporting to work Monday, said he decided to take advantage of the shutdown discounts being offered around the city. He ended up at Logan Tavern, where he watched news of the shutdown on an overhead TV.

    Niaz, 24, said he "could have used a couple more days" of being furloughed, then had a question for the bartender.

    "Are the same deals going to be offered next month when the government shuts down again?" he said.

    Felicia Sharp, a lab tech with the Defense Department at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia, said the whiplash that occurs when employees are furloughed, only to return to work shortly thereafter, can make it difficult to plan.

    For instance, people who were supposed to be on leave Monday were required to come to work, only to fill out paperwork confirming their furlough, which now appears to be at an end.

    Sharp, who also serves as a local president for the American Federation of Government Employees, was deemed essential and reported to work Monday.

    Even if there is a deal that keeps government open for a few weeks, "it only just postpones the inevitable for a while," she said. When the next deadline approaches, "it will be the same situation all over again."

    During the 2013 shutdown, which lasted more than two weeks, she took on two part-time jobs to make sure her bills were paid.

    J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers, said his members were exasperated with the inability of Congress and President Donald Trump to negotiate a budget.

    "We can't be the ball for the pingpong game," Cox said after Senate Democrats dropped their objections to a temporary funding bill in return for assurances from Republicans leaders that they will soon take up immigration and other hot-button issues.

    Later in the day, the Senate approved the measure, sending it to the House. The president will have to give his approval before the government can reopen.

    "There's still a lot of confusion. There's still not a done deal. There's apprehension that this could still fall apart," Cox said.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, and Ashraf Khalil in Washington contributed to this report.

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