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NY Daily News - Shutdown has Lawmakers Humbling Down with Basic Tasks like Guiding Tours, Opening Mail

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By Leslie Larson

Idle hands are the devil's playground, so lawmakers are picking up menial intern tasks like guiding Capitol tours, opening mail and answering phones to keep their offices running and prevent trouble during the government shutdown.

Thursday marks day three of the political standoff, and since members of Congress risk boredom given the canceled meetings and the slim chance of immediate mediation, lawmakers are chipping in with constituent relations to keep from twiddling their thumbs.

Plus, the shutdown means no pay for many Congressional staffers, so it's all hands on deck.

Colorado Republican Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton spent their afternoon on Wednesday working the phones, listening to those from their home state who wanted to voice their frustration.

"I think people appreciated it," Gardner told The Hill newspaper, adding that many callers were surprised to hear from the Boss man himself.

Some leaders, like Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, are keeping busy during the congressional crisis, but with bare-bones staffs, constituents are left hanging.

Reid's website no longer allows constituents to send email messages to the senate majority leader, and the Reno Gazette reported that no calls can go through to his office. No voicemails may be left, either.

Meanwhile, other politicians trying to stay engaged have turned into tour guides, showing people around since federal sites and memorials are closed to tourists during the budget battle between Democrats and Republicans.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has given three tours so far, telling The Hill, "They can't go to the Smithsonian. There's a lot of things they can't do, but we can still do our best to make sure they experience the Capitol."

The paper reported that Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) were also spotted showing guests around.

The shutdown doesn't mean anarchy, though, for Congress.

The House Administration Committee posted guidelines for lawmakers, permitting tour groups of fewer than 10 people. The group must have a lawmaker present as the guide.


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