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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/22/2011

Social Security Administration prepares for shutdown, cuts

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

The Obama administration and congressional Republicans insist they're working to avoid a government shutdown on March 4 if they can't agree on spending levels. But at least some federal agencies are planning ahead, just in case.

Officials with the Social Security Administration and union leaders plan to hold talks in the next week to discuss what to do if the government shuts down March 4 if President Obama and congressional leaders can't strike a deal on how to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. The talks are also expected to focus on what to do if Congress cuts the agency's budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, according to union leaders.

Though Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue hasn't made any decisions on furloughing workers, the agency wants to meet with union leaders "in the event that a furlough may become necessary," Jay Clary, the agency's acting associate commissioner for labor issues told union leaders in a letter late last week.

Planning ahead for a potential shutdown is prudent, considering the chaos that ensued during shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. During the first shutdown, about 4,800 agency employees stayed on the job to ensure beneficiaries continued receiving checks, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

Another 61,000 other workers had to stay home, but officials quickly reconsidered after realizing they didn't have enough employees available to answer telephone calls from beneficiaries or to process new claims, the report said. Other adjustments were made during the longer shutdown that stretched from Dec. 1995 into Jan. 1996.

The shutdowns forced similar cutbacks at other agencies that delayed the distribution of veterans payments, welfare checks and other federal benefits.

"I don't know who might have to stay home this time," said Witold Skwierczynski, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 220 representing agency employees. The union is already negotiating a new contract and plans to devote next week's talks to the potential impact of a shutdown and budget cuts, he said.

"We're upset about a furlough, and we're planning a series of information picketing events on March 2nd around the country to protest this whole situation, but we don't have a problem with the agency giving us a heads up," Skwierczynski said Monday. "Hopefully it won't happen, but if it does, we'll have an opportunity to negotiate a reasonable methodology if they do have to furlough."

The spending measure passed by the House early Saturday would reduce SSA's budget by about $625 million compared to last year, meaning the agency may need to furlough workers up to 10 days, Skwierczynski said. If necessary, the union is hoping furloughed workers could take their forced unpaid leave all at once in order to apply for unemployment benefits, he said.

Similar planning is underway at other agencies, according to sources, and it's expected we'll learn more about similar contingency plans this week.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

RELATED: What might happen if the government shuts down again

Cabinet and Staff News: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen visits the Middle East. Gen. David Petraeus's comments on a coalition attack reportedly offend Karzai government. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to speak at funeral of slain Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. On "The Late Show with David Letterman," Donald Rumsfeld reminisces about working with former presidents.

CIA:
U.S. officials: Raymond Davis, accused in Pakistan shootings, worked for CIA: The American who fatally shot two men in Pakistan last month and who has been described publicly as a diplomat is a security contractor for the agency and part of a secret team.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Backlogs in security clearance program reduced after GAO raises concerns: It took so long to get a security clearance for a Defense job back in 2004 that new hires would be given little to do at the office for as long as a year while they waited. Or they might have gotten frustrated and found another job.

Navy to conduct large-scale antiterrorism exercise: It's the nation's largest and set to start Tuesday.

FDA:
FDA approval process faulted at hearings on medical devices: It's approving medical devices too slowly. Or too quickly -- depending on whom you ask.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
Report: Less than 6% of federal workers telework: New government figures show that few federal workers took advantage of telework options in the year before President Obama signed a bill requiring agencies to develop work-at-home plans.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES:
Federal study to track health of Gulf cleanup workers: It plans a massive study to determine whether workers who helped clean up last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill are getting sick as a result of those jobs.

NIH:
The budget scalpel and medical research: House Republicans want to cut agency funding for the current year by more than $1 billion, to $29.5 billion.

PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE:
U.S. sets 21st-Century goal: Building a better Patent Office: Only in the last three years has the office begun to accept a majority of its applications in digital form.

STATE DEPARTMENT:
State orders staff to leave Libya: It is gravely concerned about reports that hundreds of people have been killed or injured during anti-government protests in Libya.

TSA:
Alaska lawmaker sails home to avoid TSA screening: A state lawmaker is returning home by sea after refusing a pat-down search at a Seattle airport.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | February 22, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Budget, Eye Opener, Government Shutdown  
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Comments

The do-nothings and astro-turf Tea Bag corporate shills have consistently treatened federal government employees, retired people, residents of the District of Columbia, the unions that represent working Americans and a host of other constituencies who are hated by the do-nothing's bigoted base.

The threat of a government shutdown is part of the do-nothing strategy to bully, bogard and steamroll those whom they hate. Well the do-nothings and their hateful Tea Bag bigots brigade should either put up or shut up. No more threats from this cabal of southern bigots and hatemongers who burn with hatred for so many.

Either put up or shut up. Shut down the federal government or shut up.

Posted by: DCSage | February 22, 2011 6:26 AM | Report abuse

If the Government shuts down because the GOP declared war on the poor and middleclass then all people affected should march to Washington and physically throw these GOP traitors off Capital Hill.
The GOP and Tea Party traitors last week gave more money to the rich and created not one job. And to allow the shutdown is unamerican and treasonist.

Posted by: sumo1 | February 22, 2011 6:57 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone REALLY think that the Dems will shut down the gov? Since the House has given the check to run the gov to the Senate, they are the ONLY ones who can shut down the gov.

Posted by: illogicbuster | February 22, 2011 6:59 AM | Report abuse

Just one more reason to get rid of all public sector unions, just like Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers.
Unions have no place in controlling government employees individual decisions.
Even FDR, the hero of the radical liberal elite crowd knew this, and fought against unions in government.
Reason, both the government who doles out the money and unions who receive government money have the same objective to support each other at the expense of "We the People".

Posted by: rteske | February 22, 2011 7:11 AM | Report abuse

They need to create 4 day week work weeks...at least we'll have 3 days off.

Posted by: clifton3 | February 22, 2011 8:28 AM | Report abuse

If the federal govt. is allowed to be shut down then this country needs to protest and remove from office every Congresswoman and man. This nonsense has gone on long enough. In Arizona you have the university establishing a school of essentially govt. communications chaired by President's Bush and Clinton with a focus on resolution of issues w/o such childlike behaviors now going on in Congress esp with Tea Party members who want to shut down the govt. They don't speak for my wife or myself just as they don't speak for all Americans. Yes the budget needs to be dealt with but not by eliminating vital providers of heating oil, food and pathetic amounts of income for esp the elderly. Enough!

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | February 22, 2011 8:47 AM | Report abuse

What's with the "if" talk of protests?! Congress is taking this week off, less than two weeks before the possible federal shutdown and less than two months since taking office. The protests need to happen this week in every Congressional district and at the home offices of every Senator.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | February 22, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I think we the People of this nation need to stop and ask ourselves the question that we keep avoiding: what do we want to happen to our nation?

Do we want to continue down the path to our economic destruction by following the lead of the Republicans and the Tea Party-because we all know that they have no heart, no concern whatsoever for the state of the Nation, nor for any of the 99% of us that aren't millionaires.

Or, will be turn back from the path to damnation and back the Democrats who would raise taxes enough to stem the tide of the deficits without jeopardizing our social programs or financial security? Seriously, why is it that we are so quick to turn on our neighbors when the going gets tough?

One theme that I read a lot is the idea that everyone should be able to pull themselves up from their economic situations (unless you are one of the billionaires that brought on this crisis, then you by all means deserve to be rescued). There is a lot of comparisons to how people lived over a hundred years ago, and how they braved the frontier, and made things happen.

That is just not the truth. Life was harsh in those days. Families had to stay together for survival. People also had the opportunity (if they were lucky) to homestead some land and try to squeeze out a living. That was then. This is now. We know longer have those kind of options available to us.

Whether we like it or not, we are now more dependent on each other than at any time in our history-human history! Our societies are structured in such a way that we must support and defend each other, because if the time comes that we choose to follow the Republican agenda of fending for ourselves, we are going to descend into utter chaos shortly thereafter.

I challenge you to consider what any of the following would do to our social structure: disruption in the food supply do to fuel shortages, weather related crop losses, or further economic downturns that leave millions more without the ability to pay for the higher priced, less available items.

While the 1% at the top who are pushing this "individualism" agenda will be tucked away in their bunkers, we, the People, the 99% of us, will be fighting for the scraps as our economy, our infrastructure and our humanity crumble around us.

So, ask yourself, which path do you want to follow? Will we be a nation that works together for the good of all or are we going to be a nation that only wants to help the rich to get richer?

It's up to you to choose...

The currently elected individuals in the House are making their stand, and it's not for the good of our nation.

Posted by: bryangalt1 | February 22, 2011 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Okay lets stop the fear mongering!!! In previous Gov't shut downs, Gov't employees designated "essential employees" stayed on the job! Non essential employess stayed home! Here's the best part, those who stayed home ultimately received their salaries anyway. What a Country!!!!

And you wonder why we are broke??

Posted by: Jimbo77 | February 22, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Extortion.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 22, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

DCSage,
Do you have something useful to offer to a discussion, or are you just happy to rant and call everyone you disagree with teabaggers, bigots, or hatemongers?

The word "sage" implies someone with wisdom, knowledge and/or learning. Try to exhibit some it those qualities and you might get serious attention.

Posted by: capsfan77 | February 22, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

The headline should read: Pentagon Prepares Afghan Troop Withdrawal.

The Defense Department and General Petraeus are preparing to send home 100,000 Marines and US Army soldiers, members of the US Occupation Forces in Afghanistan, in case Congress cannot agree on a budget.

Reports that Obama was going to halt Social Security payments to starving seniors are mistaken, according to White House sources. Obama said, I will not allow our old people to starve in America.

Posted by: alance | February 22, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

If there is a government shutdown, then money due to OUR employees - the administration and Congress - should be shut off, too. And NO RETROACTIVE pay given them for the time of the shutdown.

If SS is gutted or lessened, there will be a whole bunch of whoop-a** in the 2012 elections - hopefully sending BOTH PARTIES to the woodshed.

Posted by: Utahreb | February 22, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I've been preparing for a Social Security shutdown for years. It's demographically unsustainable.

Posted by: AGringo | February 22, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Most of these so-called corporate used to bes don't understand how the government works. They think they can bring those corporate ides where you don't care about people and its all about profits in the government. DUH thats why they have always been separate for centuries because of reasons like this. The federal government keeps a lot of things operative and working through many agencies everyday. And it kills me how they are in so denial that they are also federal government worker and that they should also suffer behind their silly decisions.

Question how is the federal government saving money when these heartless and cruel congressman/representatives are going to be allowed to be paid while billions of federal workers are being laid off and agencies shut down?

Yeah they have emergency people but they are not as plentiful as people think. So they can go ahead and shut the federal government down because they have to be taught how many of the agencies play important roles in keeping their states and cities in running order. JMO

Posted by: msruby36 | February 22, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

TSA:
• Alaska lawmaker sails home to avoid TSA screening: A state lawmaker is returning home by sea after refusing a pat-down search at a Seattle airport.
------

It ain't gay if you're underway...

Posted by: ozpunk | February 22, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

"They need to create 4 day week work weeks...at least we'll have 3 days off."

Our Agency already has 4-day weekends aka 2 WAH days a week. This week was great - WAH Fri & Tues = a nice long 5-day vacation! "Oh, I get so much more done at home!" I don't doubt that = yardwork, kids to school, projects around the house.

Posted by: snowbucks | February 22, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I think that, if the government is shut down, the shutdown should include the representatives and senators. I also think there should be a law specifying if congress has not passed a budget for the new Fiscal Year by Sept 30, then their pay is suspended until they pass it. In fact, they should incur personal fines for every day they run over. I'm sure some will object because they "aren't the ones who are at fault." Well, neither are the government workers at fault when they have to take the brunt of the shenanigans of Capitol Hill. The federal workers are doing their jobs. Congress is obviously not doing its job, when the fiscal year is nearly half over and they still haven't produced a budget!

Posted by: smischke | February 22, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand what the big deal is about the Government shutdown. We had one around this time last year. Remember Snowmageddon? Federal Govt in the DC area was shut down for 4 1/2 days and we all survived. I think a week or two weeks will hardly be noticed. If it gets more than that things might get a little messy.

Posted by: Skippy21 | February 22, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I'll do without governent assistance (SSDI). (I'm really not worth everyone's hard earned money and certainly not very contented being so poor; especially when riding my bicycle in 20degree weather: but please let me die some other way than freezing to death. It hurts

Posted by: Zigadabee | February 22, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Snowmageddon was a long time ago. Heck, the Democrats don't even remember November.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 23, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

The House should pass their budget and let the Senate and President do what they will.

The one thing in here is the acceleration of unpaid earned leave - when private sector employees are let go you don't see them getting accelerated payouts of leave or if they are lucky enough to get some severance that accelerated in order to get unemployment more quickly. Why should a union or government employee have that option? What is special about either of those categories?

Posted by: caspiansails | February 23, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I have seen what our Government does while its in session. Shuting down this cesspool is the best thing they could do! The less they do the less damage they do!

Posted by: wilsoncn | February 23, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Why can't people see that its because of the "success" of the unions that all of the jobs have moved overseas? Sure they could come back to the usa to produce their products. Only problem with that is, how many pairs of $750.00 blue jeans would our citizens buy? when factory workers with high school diplomas or GEDs demand just as much pay as a person with a Masters degree what do you expect? I have worked at 6 different jobs in my working lifetime. I have never relied on anyone to negotieate my contracts except ME! and thats the way I like it.

Posted by: wilsoncn | February 23, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't know.. somehow, I don't think that the way things are is what the Republican or Democratic parties had in mind when they were formed.

Republicans always sttod for individualism and self reliance, but they als stood for NATIONAL UNITY. They seem to have forgotten that.

And Democrats always stood for the farmer and the worker: folks willing to work hard and make this nation great. And they also, at one time, stood for NATIONAL UNITY.

It seems as if both parties have lost their focus. Whatever happened to all of us picking each other up when the chips were down? We've done it many times throughout our history. It's what set us apart from everyone else: the willingness to make sure our fellow citizens and neighbors got thorugh the tough times and prospered during the good times.

Now? Well, if you're a parasitic employee of the public sector, there's automatically something wrong with you. If you don't favor slashing spending, no matter who gets hurt, then you must be treasonous.

But here's a fair and honest question. The resolution that expires on March 4th included $41 billion in cuts. The new people in Congress told us this would create jobs. So where are the jobs?

Posted by: Joe_the_fed | February 25, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

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