October 03, 2013

John Cooney talks about the government shutdown in multiple publications

2 min

Venable partner John Cooney spoke with multiple publications about the first government shutdown in 17 years and its impact on federal workers and the military. Under the shutdown, the vast majority of federal employees deemed nonessential have been put on immediate unpaid leave and most nonessential government services have stopped. The shutdown came as a result of Congress’ inability to agree on new appropriations and a disagreement over a one year delay in President Obama’s 2009 healthcare law.

In an October 1, 2013 CBS News article, Cooney spoke about the time federal managers and human resource employees must spend preparing for a shutdown. He pointed out that federal workers had to spend time writing plans in the event of a shutdown on top of their other responsibilities. “They'd have to put aside whatever other functions they had because this one is on an absolute deadline,” Cooney added. He said the plans went largely untouched since the last shutdown but luckily most were updated when the government nearly shut down in 2011.

In the days leading up to the shutdown, Cooney spoke with CNN Money on September 25 about the use of Blackberries, laptops, and cell phones by federal workers during a shutdown. Since something as simple as checking work email could be illegal, some federal agencies have considered collecting employees’ mobile devices. “If it's a long shut down, the agency could collect cell phones from employees,” Cooney said.

Cooney also spoke with Politico Pro on September 20 about delays in military pay in the event of a shutdown. “You will be paid, just not on time,” Cooney said. He noted that military pay often becomes a political football in these fights with both sides hurling accusations at each other. “It’s part of the rhetoric to influence the public. Each side accuses the other of harming the military and national security,” Cooney said. Despite bipartisan efforts in the past, there is little incentive politically for Congress to take the issue off the table because of its role in the blame game. However, Cooney pointed out, during a shutdown, uniformed military would fare better than most federal employees because their pay is guaranteed by law. Cooney also said retired members of the military have less to worry about because their benefits are paid for by multi-year bills where the money is already committed, not the annual appropriations process.