Durbin closes offices during shutdown. Kirk, not so much
BY NATASHA KORECKI Political Reporter October 4, 2013 5:18PM
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin meets with Naperville business leaders in 2011. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 6, 2013 6:08AM
What happens when you call a U.S. senator during the federal government shutdown?
In Illinois, it depends.
If it’s U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), all of his Illinois offices — from Rock Island to Chicago to Carbondale — are closed.
In Washington, Durbin’s senior staff members were taking shifts manning the phone.
A message on Durbin’s website even indicates the office of the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate could not accept incoming email.
But there is an emergency number.
“We are currently operating under a partial government shutdown. According to the Anti-Deficiency Act, Senator Durbin’s Offices are closed,” reads a web message.
There’s a vast difference with U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
Call his Springfield office and someone picks up, as is the case in Washington and Chicago.
In fact, all of Kirk’s offices are open.
It’s Kirk who is in the minority. The junior Illinois senator is among a handful of Senators who has refrained from furloughing his staff. It doesn’t mean staff is getting paid – employees are just working and will likely be paid later.
“People expect their elected representatives to be on call to answer questions, respond to their concerns and advocate for their needs, especially at a time like this,” Kirk said in a written response. “We work for the people of Illinois and I, along with my staff, will remain available, as we always are, to serve them to the best of our ability.”
How is this possible when national parks and even national monuments are roped off?
Members of Congress have some discretion over how much of their staff they furlough. Durbin, who is a member of leadership, has scaled back significantly, furloughing 64 and keeping 14 in Washington D.C.
“The fact of the matter is the government is closed and Congress isn’t immune to that,” said Durbin spokesman Max Gleischman.