Nearly 340 civilians who work for the U.S. Coast Guard in Elizabeth City — more than half the service’s local civilian work force — were among the 800,000 federal employees furloughed nationwide Tuesday as a result of the partial shutdown of the federal government.
The largest share of the workers sent home are employed by the Aviation Logistics Center, which provides material and technical support for Coast Guard air stations and aircraft around the country. Of a total civilian workforce of 523, 264 workers at the ALC were furloughed, according to NYxoLyno Cangemi, a spokesman for Fifth Coast Guard District External Affairs in Portsmouth, Va.
Another 66 civilian workers at the Base Support Command also were sent home, leaving only 20 civilians at the command unaffected by the shutdown.
In addition, five of the nine civilians who work at the base’s Aviation Technical Training Center were furloughed, as were four of the five who work for the National Strike Force Coordination Center. Capt. David Haynes, commander of the NSFCC, said his command retained an industrial hygienist considered critical to the command’s operations.
The ATTC provides apprentice level training to nearly 700 of the Coast Guard’s aviation maintenance personnel. The NSFCC provides personnel and specialized equipment to the Coast Guard and other federal agencies for pollution and disaster incident response.
The other two Coast Guard commands based in Elizabeth City — the air station and the small boat station — did not furlough any civilian workers. Three civilians work at the air station; none work for the boat station.
The partial shutdown does not affect active-duty Coast Guard personnel. Legislation signed by President Barack Obama on Monday mandates that all active-duty military and reserve personnel not be furloughed and continue to be paid during the shutdown.
The same legislation gave the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security broad authority to include civilian personnel and contractors who “are providing support to members of the armed forces” among those who will not be furloughed, said Sarah Howard, communications director for U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., whose district includes the Coast Guard base in Elizabeth City.
Coast Guard operations in Elizabeth City weren’t the only federal facilities in North Carolina feeling the effects of the shutdown, which took effect Monday at midnight after Congress failed to reach an agreement on a spending bill that would continue to fund government operations past Oct. 1.
The National Park Service has locked all the gates that provide access to the beaches along the Camp Hatteras National Seashore. In addition, the Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island lighthouses are closed, as is the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk.
The same is true at national memorials, federal parks and other U.S. agencies across the country. In addition to “closed” signs and barricades springing up at the Lincoln Memorial and other tourist attractions, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency were virtually shuttered. In addition, veterans centers were shut down.
Government workers classified as essential, such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors, remained on the job.
Employees whose work is financed through fees, including those who issue passports and visas, also continued to work. The self-funded Postal Service remained in operation, and officials said the government will continue to pay Social Security benefits and Medicare and Medicaid fees to doctors on time.
In Congress, some aides were furloughed and others said they were working without pay.
Lawmakers and the president were still getting paid, however, at a rate totaling more than $250,000 per day for all of them.
Late Tuesday, House Republicans sought swift passage of legislation aimed at reopening small slices of the federal establishment. The bills covered the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Park Service and a portion of the Washington, D.C., government funded with local tax revenue.
Senate Democrats announced their opposition, saying Republicans shouldn’t be permitted to choose which agencies should open and which remain shut.
The heart of the dispute between House Republicans on one side and President Obama and Senate Democrats on the other is the Affordable Health Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.” House Republicans initially demanded a full defunding of the health care law as the price for essential federal funding.
They later changed that demand to a one-year delay in the law.
a permanent repeal of a medical device tax and a provision making it harder for women to obtain contraceptive coverage. They have since changed that demand and are now seeking a one-year delay in the law’s requirement for individuals to purchase insurance. They also want a separate provision that would dramatically raise the cost of health care for the president, vice president, members of Congress and thousands of aides.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, President Obama accused Republicans of causing the first partial closure in 17 years as part of a non-stop “ideological crusade” to wipe out his signature health care law.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave as good as he got. “The president isn’t telling the whole story,’ he said in an opinion article posted on the USA Today website. “The fact is that Washington Democrats have slammed the door on reopening the government by refusing to engage in bipartisan talks.”
Boehner has declined to say whether he would permit a vote on a stand-alone spending bill to reopen the government, stripped of health care provisions, though Democrats and Obama continued to call on him to do so.
Sen. Cruz, R-Texas, the most prominent advocate of the “Defund Obamacare” movement, said the Senate should follow the House’s lead and quickly reopen programs for veterans and the parks. Asked why it was appropriate to do so without demanding changes in the health care law, he offered no answer.
“None of us want to be in a shutdown. And we’re here to say to the Senate Democrats, ‘Come and talk to us,’” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., as GOP lawmakers called for negotiations with the Senate on a compromise.
It was an offer that Senate Democrats chose to refuse, saying there was nothing to negotiate until Republicans agreed to reopen the federal establishment.
“The government is closed because of the irrationality of what’s going on on the other side of the Capitol,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.