(Written by Eileen Sullivan)
The Trump administration is asking most State Department employees to return to work Tuesday, despite the stalemate in funding negotiations between the president and congressional Democrats that has led to a partial government shutdown.
In a message posted online Thursday, the department’s deputy undersecretary for management, Bill Todd, cited the agency’s core national security mission as the reason many furloughed employees were being asked to return to work next week. He said the department was “taking steps to make additional funds available” so employees could get paid. It was not immediately clear what these steps entailed or why the department did not take these steps sooner.
A State Department spokesman said agency budget officials and members of its legal team had been working to find a way to resume payment to many of its employees during the shutdown. While they have found an avenue to pay some employees for work performed during the next pay period, officials said that, as of Thursday, they had not identified sources for funding for future pay periods if the government remained closed.
The government has been partly shut for 27 days, and there has been no indication that President Donald Trump and Democrats are any closer to an agreement that would lead to reopening the government. Trump has refused to reopen the government until lawmakers agree to fund a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
The shutdown affects some 800,000 federal employees.
Most of the State Department’s more than 75,000 employees, based around the world, have been affected by the shutdown. The department said employees will be paid Feb. 14 for work they do beginning on or after Sunday. Pay missed because of the shutdown will not be issued until Congress passes a funding bill for the department.
“Although most personnel operations can resume, bureaus and posts are expected to adhere to strict budget constraints with regard to new spending for contracts, travel and other needs,” Todd wrote in the statement.
The department had already decided to keep its plans to fly all its ambassadors from around the world to Washington for a two-day conference this week, despite the shutdown.