WASHINGTON -- Federal workers will be back on the job tomorrow in full force if the Senate passes stopgap funding legislation today and President Bush signs it.
The House approved funding legislation early today and an accompanying tentative budget plan for fiscal 1991. Bush did not immediately indicate whether he finds the budget plan acceptable, which he's made a condition of signing funding legislation.
Funding legislation, called a continuing resolution, is needed to end the shutdown of government services that began Saturday after Bush vetoed a previous resolution.
If Bush doesn't sign funding legislation today, the Columbus Day federal holiday, government workers still must report to work tomorrow. How long they be at work is unknown.
The government cannot operate without a stopgap funding bill, which would allow the government to run temporarily while a final 1991 budget agreement is worked out.
A continued deadlock on how best to reduce the federal deficit would mean the government was still essentially shut down -- a process that started Saturday morning.
Federal employees would go to work and stay up to three hours tomorrow morning to close up shop before going home for an indefinite period.
Only "essential" employees would remain at work tomorrow. Just who is essential is being determined at the White House and is generally understood to include public safety employees such as prison guards and U.S. marshals as well as doctors and nurses, postal employees and air traffic controllers.
Most employees who are as yet unclear on their status would not find out if they are classified as essential personnel until after reporting to work tomorrow.
At the Social Security Administration, headquartered in Woodlawn but with a huge operation in Baltimore, spokesman Phil Gambino said essential employees would consist of only "a few percent" of the SSA work force of 63,000.
Under this scenario, Columbus Day holiday pay would be in jeopardy since federal regulations require federal employees to have worked either one day before a holiday or one day after a holiday in order to be paid for it, Gambino said.
Congress, however, could also make that pay retroactive in any subsequent agreement.
If Congress and Bush agree upon a continuing resolution to fund the government until a deficit reduction plan is worked out either tonight or tomorrow, federal employees would probably stay on the job tomorrow.
Some in Congress want such a resolution effective through Oct. 19 and at previous funding levels that don't require furloughs.
Bush sent a message to Congress yesterday saying he would only sign a stopgap funding bill that lasts until Oct. 12. The president said he also would require spending cuts at the rate of $40 billion annually as opposed to the $100 billion rate required under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit law.
Federal agency heads made furlough plans as part of the 32 percent spending cut required under the deficit law if there was no budget agreement.