Sen. Roy Blunt introduces bill to protect private sector jobs, national security from unnecessary sequestration furloughs

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) introduced the “Essential Employees Act of 2013” today, legislation that will protect American jobs and public safety by ensuring “essential” federal employees continue to provide vital services – including food inspections, control tower operations, and border security – in the wake of sequestration.

The bill, which Senate Democrats blocked as an amendment to the continuing resolution (CR) last month, would give the Obama Administration the flexibility it claims it does not have to apply the same standards used during occurrences of inclement weather or other government shutdowns to the sequestration cuts to each agency. The legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (Maine), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), John Hoeven (S.D.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), and Jim Risch (Idaho), and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

“There’s no reason the president’s sequester should compromise American jobs or public safety. This bill will help ensure the Obama Administration spends taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars in a way that prioritizes our nation’s economy, protects private sector jobs, and defends our national security,” said Blunt.

In April 2011, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) sent a detailed memo to each federal agency outlining which federal employees would be exempted from furlough during a potential government shutdown. Those employees are considered essential “to ensure the safety of life and protection of property,” based on language contained in the Anti-Deficiency Act. 

This bill would apply identical language used during government shutdown scenarios to the sequester, defining essential employees using OPM’s April 2011 shutdown guidance, which reads: “[A]n employee that performs work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, as determined by the head of the agency.” This is the same language used in guidance from the Clinton Administration in preparation for the 1995 government shutdown.