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Drum workers preparing for possible shutdown

TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT
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WASHINGTON — Civilian employees at Fort Drum began preparing for possible furloughs beginning Monday as Congress continued to flirt with a government shutdown.


Fort drum employees may be given furlough notices on Monday and be told to work a partial day, said Robin R. Johnson, president of Local 400 of the American Federation of Government Employees, representing more than 1,000 workers at Fort Drum.


Some employees are required to work during furloughs, but they may not be paid, Ms. Johnson said. "Everyone is affected."


Ms. Johnson said the union will organize an "informational picket" on Tuesday on Route 11 outside the Fort Drum gate in case of a shutdown. That event is open to furloughed employees as well as the public, she said.


The situation for civilian employees is confusing, she said, because the Obama administration has not provided much detail on which employees would be furloughed. The AFGE sued the administration last week to find out more information.


Uniformed servicemembers could be affected through missed paychecks, Army Secretary John M. McHugh has said.


Congressional leaders, including Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said negotiations were continuing to reach a budget agreement for the rest of the fiscal year, but House Republicans signaled the possibility of continued stalemate by scheduling a vote today on yet another short-term extension of one week.


Mr. Schumer tried to sound a positive tone in a midday call with reporters, noting that negotiations went on through Tuesday night and Wednesday.


"To breathe a sigh of relief? It's too early to do that," Mr. Schumer said in the call.


The one-week extension includes about $12 billion in budget cuts and a provision to fund the military through the end of the fiscal year, heading off any impact of a shutdown on defense employees and soldiers.


Whether the Senate would agree to an extension was uncertain; President Barack Obama said Tuesday he would not sign another extension but he was scheduled to meet with House Speaker Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, Wednesday night.


A spokesman for Mr. Schu-mer had no information about whether Mr. Schumer — who has been focused on a long-term deal — would support another extension.


Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, has not said whether he supports another extension. A spokesman, Sean Magers, said that would depend on the nature of the spending cuts, as the congressman supports a broad approach rather than singling out programs.


House Republicans' willingness to accept an extension marks a turnaround, as the leadership and conservative wing of the party had generally ruled out the idea after the last two-week extension was enacted.


At issue, largely, is whether House Republicans will accept $33 billion in spending cuts for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, as agreed to by Democrats, and agree to jettison many of the policy riders and domestic program eliminations the GOP-led House approved earlier this year.


That figure is about half of what the House approved but also much more than Democrats initially were willing to accept.


Other possible effects if a shutdown began to emerge as well.


Mr. Schumer gathered reporters on an annual conference call discussing unclaimed income tax refunds, only to acknowledge that a shutdown could complicate taxpayers' efforts to claim them.


"Hopefully, there won't be a government shutdown, for that reason and many others," Mr. Schumer said.


He said the processing of federally backed mortgages could grind to a halt, interrupting the great majority of new home loans for low and middle income families.


Congressional offices, too, were beginning to contemplate what will happen to their schedules. A spokesman for Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said the office is taking a "wait and see" approach but will provide as much constituent service as legally possible should the government shut down.

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