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Friday
Apr082011

Government Shutdown: Employees May Have to Turn In BlackBerrys

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The dark shadow of a government shutdown is hanging over Capitol Hill and congressional offices are planning for the worst -- like what to do with the more than one million government-issued BlackBerry cellphones.

Memos are starting to go out informing staffers if they are "essential" or not, and rumors of collection bins for office-issued BlackBerry devices are flying through the hallways.

"We were hopeful maybe it won't happen yesterday, but after this afternoon…with the president's veto threat we are thinking this is going to happen.  Reality is setting in.  Everyone's preparing now," said one Republican House staffer Thursday.

The House Administration Committee issued a guidance memo Thursday encouraging members to confiscate furloughed employees' BlackBerry phones and laptops to ensure no one breaks the moratorium on performing official duties.  Over a million BlackBerry cellphones are used by government employees, according to a spokeswoman for RIM, the company that owns BlackBerry.

"The physical collection does seem a little bit dramatic but certainly the temptation is absolutely there," said the staffer, who asked not to be named because shutdown plans have not been made public yet.  "For a lot of us this is our life and to say well, no, we have to put it on hold is very tough.  I can't imagine it.  'Just sit back and stay at home' sounds like it would be great, but it's definitely not."

Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Mich., said he will not collect his furloughed staffers' cellphones.

"You don't need to go around like you're disarming them.  They are responsible adults.  I trust them not to use them," McCotter said.

The committee's guidance was rather vague on which staff members are "essential" and which should be furloughed, saying only employees whose work is necessary to fulfill a member's constitutional responsibilities, safeguard human life or protect property are "essential."

There is no consensus on just how many employees will stay in the event of a shutdown.  Some offices have said they will keep their entire staffs.  Others, like McCotter's office, has said every staff member will be furloughed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio