WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid is reopening his state offices on Thursday, recalling at least 18 staffers furloughed for the past 10 days during the government shutdown, his office said.
The shutdown is ongoing but aides to the senior Democrat are returning to work in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City. He had been the only Nevada lawmaker to close offices while most of the government has been inactive.
“Now that we are at 10 days there has been a pretty big backlog of casework that was building up,” Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said. “Obviously those who have been furloughed would rather be working so we re-examined the situation and brought additonal staff back.”
It was not immediately clear whether Reid also was recalling Washington staffers who had been furloughed. At the outset of the shutdown, he had sent home about half the roughly 100 people who work for him, leaving in place senior advisers, legislative assistants and communications aides.
The House passed a bill last weekend that would provide back pay to all federal workers for the shutdown, whether they worked or were furloughed. The Senate has not yet acted on it.
In an email Wednesday to top aides of other Democratic senators, Reid Deputy Chief of Staff David McCallum gave the green light to re-examine staffing during the shutdown.
McCallum said retroactive pay for furloughed workers “will be part of any agreement” to reopen the government, according to a copy of the memo obtained by Politico.
Reid last weekend said the Senate would act on back pay for federal workers, but also criticized Republicans. He said it made no sense to close the government and send workers home and then pay them essentially for not working.
Reid said the promise of back pay amounted to a “paid vacation” for furloughed workers.
“These people who want to go to work can’t go to work but they are going to get paid.”
Staffing decisions during the shutdown have been left up to individual members of Congress, with some closing their offices and sending significant numbers of aides home, while others keeping offices fully staffed.
An informal Senate survey by The Huffington Post this week indicated Democrats were more likely to close their offices while Republicans tended to keep them open.
Some Nevadans have complained of not being able to get through to Reid’s office during the shutdown. In an interview this week, Reid denied he closed his offices to make a point about the pain of government shutdown.
“You don’t need me to have someone not answering phones and not doing casework for people not to feel (pain),” Reid said. “People are feeling it for all kind of reasons.”
“How fair is it if someone working for the Nevada Bureau of Land Management can’t go to work, the FBI can’t go to work, the Forest Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and yet I have a full staff? How does that look? That looks pretty lousy.”
In his remarks on Saturday, Reid said senators who were not closing their offices “are kind of showing off.”
Reid was the only Nevada lawmaker to close his offices. Sen Dean Heller, R-Nev., kept his open but staffed at lower levels.
House members from Southern Nevada did not furlough any aides. Republican Rep. Mark Amodei was rotating half his staff half on, half off in his Reno-based district but called everyone back to work following House passage of the retroactive pay bill.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.