WASHINGTON (AP) — Now in its second week, the partial government shutdown has taken its toll on the White House, where about 3 of 4 staffers have been furloughed, barred even from checking the BlackBerrys they usually clutch like worry beads.
Of the 1,701 advisers, assistants, number-crunchers, butlers, chefs and landscapers who work at the White House on a normal day, fewer than 450 are on duty, according to President Barack Obama’s budget office. The rest fall under an unfortunate label that has kept hundreds of thousands of federal workers home: “non-essential.”
At one entrance to the West Wing, a wall that normally displays clippings from the day’s newspapers hasn’t been updated in over a week.
“Congress slips toward shutdown,” reads one outdated headline in a near-empty press office.
With a full array of official duties that must be carried out despite the impasse with Congress, Obama’s aides have strived to maintain normalcy. But the logistical gymnastics of running the federal government’s nerve center with a skeletal staff have created a sense of mild disarray at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The staff of 90 that normally tends to the president’s residence has been cut to 15. In the West Wing, only a scaled-back menu is available at the White House mess. Trash cans are still being emptied and the bathrooms maintained, but the usual buzz of employees across the White House grounds has dipped to a quiet hum.
“The most evident impact is the lack of voices,” said Josh Earnest, Obama’s principle deputy press secretary. “There aren’t a bunch of people yammering on the phone.”
Vice President Joe Biden gets to keep the single staffer who works at his Naval Observatory residence, but his 24-person White House team has been cut in half.
Like Obama, who is skipping a planned trip to Asia this week, Biden also has had to trim back his schedule. His office said Tuesday that he was calling off a trip to New Jersey Friday for Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s Senate campaign. Last week, he canceled a speech to the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign and an appearance at a fundraiser for House Democratic candidates.
Want to share your ideas with Obama about resolving the shutdown? Don’t bother calling. The White House switchboard has been set to roll over to a prerecorded message.
“We apologize, but due to the lapse in federal funding, we are unable to take your call,” the message says.
The few senior White House aides still working are performing duties generally reserved for low-level assistants, like planning Obama’s off-campus events, scheduling meetings, sending announcements to the media and getting visitors cleared by the Secret Service.
Even Obama pitched in last week as he left the White House for a visit to a nearby sandwich shop without the usual entourage of staffers who shepherd the media accompanying him. With more senior staff filling in as “wranglers,” journalists ended up trailing behind the president, only able to see his back.
“Let’s go, wranglers!” the president teased his staff, pausing to tell reporters to get in front.
The White House “advance” office, which coordinates the president’s travel, is just about shuttered. In a departure from normal procedure, Obama’s schedule this week is being announced day by day.
That’s also meant fewer outings for Obama and first lady Michelle Obama — a cutback that also reflects the touchy optics of pursuing leisurely activities while federal workers are furloughed. Since the shutdown started, Obama hasn’t played a round of golf, as he does almost every weekend. And there was no fancy night at a restaurant for the president and Mrs. Obama, who marked their 21st wedding anniversary Thursday.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/7-10/14)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Nite | to the tune of @cnn 😞
1 of 25
2. Got so much work to do but I just wanna stay in bed and binge watch #Gameofthrones and start the new season of #OnceUponATime. I know I can't be the only one. Right? Ha 💤🦁🍂 #saturday
2 of 25
3. Mommy's weekend turn up ❤️👶🏾💕🍼 Wouldn't trade it for nothing. #TeamNoSleep lol #HesMyBiggestBlessing ✨
3 of 25
4. One of them oh shit mont we made it feelings … this shit still be unreal 💯💪🏾 @remyboymonty1738
4 of 25
5. Tickets Available October 14 @ticketmaster.
5 of 25
6. People magazine Home edition has raided my house! Get a sneak peek into the bedroom life of the Leakes and see other parts of my home now at PEOPLE.COM
6 of 25
7. They want to kick you when you down, but kick it when you up
7 of 25
8. Got my advance copy of #Mafia3 at @gamestop. Get yours via link in the bio #Mafia3 #Ad
8 of 25
9. This is some of the cast and our diverse team of writers in the writer's room creating funny sh*t for @nbcmarlon what a fun room! Lots of jokes, great stories and having a great time doing what we love... making people laugh and feel something. Look out for our show next year @nbcmarlon we bringing sitcoms back to NBC
9 of 25
10. #HappySunday☀️Thank you @4everbrandy101 💛💡💛
10 of 25
11. Happy to be back in Central Falls, RI breaking ground for the One Stop Health Center and hosting a local community event with #Vaseline.
11 of 25
12. Thank you all in advance 💋💋💋 #Repost @urbansvintage・・・#TarajiPHenson's memoir #AroundTheWayGirl will be available everywhere TODAY October 11th! Will you be purchasing a copy? #UrbansVintage
12 of 25
13. Moms got my back
13 of 25
14. @galore dinner party glo ✨ thanks to @styledbygiigii
14 of 25
15. 🌹#ThisIsWhatTheTruthFeelsLikeTOUR #forevereve
15 of 25
16. Yes, all those videos I've been posting have led to this: the introduction of skincare to @TYRABeauty! This is the rundown on the new line:Years of research and beauty tips I live by led me to produce the most effective and delightful skincare out there. I'm all about taking really good care of my skin, so I can look like I'm aging in #TyraYears and go filter free on Instagram when I feel like it! Now, it's your turn. ✨My Mama always told me not to wash my face with just my hands. "Tyra, girl, you're just moving the dirt around!" And I've listened. First up is The Clean Machine.... ...a 3-in-1 foaming face wash that cleanses, removes makeup and purified your skin. It has patented technology - a attached Turbo Cleansing Tool - to give you that deep clean that makes your skin feel super fresh. Wanna know more? Yeah, baby. Click that link in my bio.
16 of 25
17. On set of #beingmaryjane like... ❤️😬💃🏾
17 of 25
18. #carouselofhope@yvetteshelton100@makeupbylatrice @thestacetheface@marialuciahohan24
18 of 25
19. I refuse to let a little cold stop me from my daily routines to greatness. #onlythestrongsurvive #warriors
19 of 25
20. Big things begin with big THINKING... #BusinessEthics #SetLife 🎥
20 of 25
21. Goodnight - here's a song
21 of 25
22. Words can't explain the feeling that I have right now.....God is good. look momma I made it. #Harts #Blessed #WhatNow #comedicrockstarshit #4DaysAway
22 of 25
23. I tried to get a better video with out the nasty bib but she started getting mad at me..lol! Big cuz @the_queen_caitlin trying to show her what to do. #MamasToots #HeirBear👑💜
23 of 25
24. Gorgeous Serena joined Beyoncé in Formation last night on stage in New Jersey!!!
24 of 25
25. 😜 @lifeofdesiigner & @rockohill
25 of 25