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House panel details the ethics rules of a shutdown

Furloughed employees can’t visit the congressional office or communicate with the office about official matters

Signs mark the offices of the House Ethics Committee in the Longworth House Office Building in July.
Signs mark the offices of the House Ethics Committee in the Longworth House Office Building in July. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

All House members, officers and employees are still subject to the ethics rules and regulations during a government shutdown, including the gift rule, a House Ethics Committee memo Thursday states.

The panel emphasized privately sponsored trips during a government shutdown are not allowed. “If you have received Committee approval to participate in privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel, you may not travel if a lapse in appropriations is in place at the time of your departure,” the memo states.

The ethics panel memo urges those who plan to take a trip under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, which is designed to strengthen international relations through foreign trips, to contact the committee for further guidance.

Employees will be furloughed if deemed nonessential — meaning their duties don’t directly support members’ performance of constitutional responsibilities, include safeguarding human life or protecting property.

Furloughed employees can’t perform official duties or provide services during a shutdown and can’t visit the congressional office or communicate with the office about official matters, the memo states.

The memo, sent out by Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., and ranking member Susan Wild, D-Pa., says “there are significant limitations on the use of volunteer services in place of paid services.”

Fellows and those detailed from an agency can work during the shutdown but can’t replace the duties of a paid House employee, the notice says. Paid and unpaid interns are not considered essential and may not work during a lapse in funding.

Furloughed employees can’t be paid with campaign funds to perform official duties, and all rules prohibiting the use of official resources for campaign purposes remain in effect, the memo states.

“Although employees may work or volunteer for a campaign during a lapse in appropriations, campaign work may not be performed on House property, using official resources, or on House time,” the memo states.

Employees who are furloughed and want to do outside work during that time must follow the outside employment rules, including the earning limit for outside work by senior staff.

Further, executive branch employees detailed to a committee in the House should ask their agency if they are considered essential.

The panel’s notice cites the House Administration Committee’s guidance issued Wednesday, which outlined a much larger pool of answers to questions about how the shutdown would affect the House.

Members, committee directors, House officers and agency directors make the call on who is deemed an essential employee and who should be furloughed. Lawmakers are allowed to use official resources to travel back and forth from their districts.

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