White House, Pentagon prepare for government shutdown

10:03, April 08, 2011      

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Capitol Hill is seen in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, April 7, 2011. Talks between U.S. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders at the White House to avert a government shutdown yielded no results on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said talks will continue through the afternoon. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

The White House is on Thursday preparing for a potential government shutdown as President Barack Obama tries to make a deal with the Republicans.

Obama called House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to the Oval Office Thursday afternoon as clock ticks toward Friday, when the current stopgap budget is set to expire. Meanwhile, the administration is making preparations for a shutdown if the talks collapse.

Jeff Zients, deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said his office began letting federal employees know Thursday if they will be furloughed in case of a shutdown. Even White House staff would be scaled back significantly, with a number of political appointees joining federal workers in being furloughed.

Zients said OMB Director Jack Lew on Thursday afternoon began officially informing federal agencies of what they can and cannot do if the government shuts down, and employees began receiving notice of furloughs on Thursday.

He said OMB has been planning for shutdown contingencies for weeks, but the office stepped up its work this week, saying they are "taking these steps because responsible management demands it. "

He warned even a brief shutdown would have a significant and detrimental effect on the economic recovery.

Across the Potomac River at the Pentagon, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn informed the department workforce on a potential shutdown, saying "operations and activities that are essential to safety, protection of human life, and protection of our national security," will not be affected by a shutdown.

"The DoD (Department of Defense) will continue to conduct activities in support of our national security, including operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Japan; Libya-related support operations; and other operations and activities essential to the security of our nation," said Lynn.

He said military personnel are not subject to furlough and will report for duty as normal during the shutdown. Zients earlier said military personnel will continue to earn their money, but will not receive paychecks during the shutdown.

Civilians in the Pentagon, however, will be furloughed except those deemed to be performing activities exempt from the shutdown.

Source: Xinhua
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