Earlier this week, we shared our map of the government shutdown's effects by state, replete with curtailed food programs and cuts to Head Start programs. Now, a more harrowing tale: How the shutdown is affecting members of Congress.
The White House is serving turkey chili every day.
The New York Times reports that the government shutdown has reduced the staff at the executive mansion from more than 1,700 to fewer than 500. And many of those furloughed (or, in the parlance, not "excepted" from the shutdown) are service employees.
Which means that lunches aren't quite the affairs that they once were. "No more soup of the day, according to those still working in the kitchen," the paper notes. "To simplify, it will be turkey chili as long as the shutdown lasts."
Congressmembers have to eat boxed lunches — without ice cream!
The White House isn't the only place suffering from more limited lunch options. From Politico:
Another difference lawmakers might notice? Their lunches have been scaled back as well. The usually buffet-style lunches with ice cream were instead box lunches for the Senate GOP on Tuesday. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said Senate Democrats had boxed lunches as well.
There are only two cafeterias still open on the Hill! But it gets worse.
Interns are in charge of vacuuming.
That story goes on to note that maintenance staff is also stretched thin, having to expand their duties substantially (even as they work without pay). Which has meant that the tasks get picked up by others.
During an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday ostensibly about the shooting on Capitol Hill, Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas told a story about what happened in his office.
My daughter was having lunch with my communications director, Meaghan Cronin, and we would send an intern to get a vacuum cleaner because there's no janitorial services during the government shutdown.
Yes, Farenthold's intern is now in charge of the sweeping. And if you weren't convinced that's scary, he went on.
I was immediately worried about where the rest of the staff was. Just about then, my daughter and Meaghan came bursting in the door. They were the second-to-last people who got let into the Cannon Building before the lockdown. They ran and came in. About 30 seconds later, somebody pounded on the door [Ed. – Gasp!] and it was our intern with a vacuum cleaner. [Ed. – Oh.] We let him in.
Senators are answering their own phones.
From a different Politico story about Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
"By God, I said the hell with it. We’re going to answer the phones," Manchin told a POLITICO reporter who dialed into his main office line. "When those meetings are over I grab the phones."
The story is accompanied by a photo of Manchin sitting at a desk talking on the phone.
Some Senators had to furlough staff.
It is largely up to individual departments and offices to determine when and if staff should be excepted from shutdown furloughs. Many Senate offices determined that much of their staff count was expendable for the time being. Others, like Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, decided they weren't. From another Politico article:
Kirk said Thursday that he is keeping his entire staff in place in order to provide services to World War II veterans visiting Washington during the shutdown.
"It's because there are World War II guys that are coming in," Kirk said.
You may have heard about those guys.
Democrat Mark Levin of Michigan agreed. "His entire staff is essential, he said. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be working for him." A lot of Senate staffers who were furloughed probably feel pretty bad right now.
Not everyone gets drink discounts.
Photo: Other great moments in Congressional cafeteria history. (AP)